Jinxed at First: Seohyun, Na In-woo in cutesy fantasy romcom that comes on a little strong

Seohyun in a still from Jinxed at First. The Girls’ Generation member stars as Seul-bi, a female fortune-teller who comes from a long line of soothsayers.
PHOTO: Viu

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Jinxed at First, a frothy, fantasy-fuelled Korean drama series from KBS, gives new meaning to that idiom by imagining a line of female fortune-tellers behind various kings and corporate tycoons in Korean history.

The visions these women have may influence major political and economic currents, but the world doesn't know about them, as they are kept behind closed doors by the greedy men that possess them.

In the present day, this lineage of fantastical soothsayers is controlled by the Keumhwa Group. Mi-soo (Yoon Ji-hye) and her daughter Lee Seul-bi (Seohyun) live in a hidden fairy-tale alcove within an ivory tower — the Keumhwa skyscraper in Seoul.

Forced to aid the company's chairman, Sun Sam-joong (Jeon Kwang-leol) in his perennial quest for wealth and power, Mi-soo is a jaded woman who meekly accepts her life as a prisoner and takes the sedatives she is fed without question.

Mi-soo had some experience of the outside world, so she knows what she's missing. Seul-bi, on the other hand, has spent her whole life behind closed doors, prancing around spacious rooms filled with books and vegetation.

She is naive, curious and filled with a boundless energy that could hardly be contained within four walls for long.

One afternoon, Sam-joong's son Min-joon (Ki Do-hoon) brings some friends over to his father's study and when the party starts, Seul-bi is drawn to the music throbbing through the walls.

Among the party is Gong Soo-gwang (Na In-woo), who isn't keen to drink the chairman's whiskey and is even more uncomfortable when a gaggle of young women are introduced to the young men.

Seul-bi believes that she can break free from her situation if she meets a prince, so when she senses Soo-gwang on the other side of the wall, she decides that she's found that prince.

Na In-woo as Soo-gwang/Myeong-seong (left) and Seohyun as soothsayer Seul-bi in a still from Jinxed at First.
PHOTO: Viu

She finds a way out and follows him out of the building, marvelling at the outside world she's seeing for the first time. Seul-bi goes with Soo-gwang all the way to his mother's fish restaurant by the sea.

In the end, he brings her back to Keumhwa but is booked for kidnapping for his troubles.

Sam-joong, fearing his secret lucky charm will be exposed, has Soo-gwang's mother run over by a truck. While Soo-gwang spreads his mother's ashes over a lake, another goon socks him over the head and covers up the attempted murder as a suicide.

Found in the nick of time by a fisherman, Soo-gwang assumes a new identity when the fisherman gives him the ID card of his late son, whose death a year earlier wasn't registered with the authorities.

Seohyun as Seul-bi in a still from Jinxed at First.
PHOTO: Viu

"From now on, you're my son Gong Myeong-seong," says the fisherman to the young man in an emotional goodbye, capping a relationship that played out over a whopping two minutes of screen time.

Two years later, Soo-gwang — now Myeong-seong — is a happy-go-lucky fishmonger in Seodong Market, a vibrant neighbourhood filled with colourful characters.

However, Myeong-seong, having picked up a jinx from his brief time with Seul-bi, is seen as the pariah of the market, as anyone who touches him is destined to receive three days of bad luck.

Back in Seoul, Seul-bi has become a prophet for Min-joon, after his father lets him in on his secret. One day, Mi-soo helps her daughter escape, and she finds her way to Myeong-seong's shop, but he wants nothing to do with her.

Seohyun as Seul-bi and Na In-woo as Soo-gwang/Myeong-seong in a still from Jinxed at First.
PHOTO: Viu

Seul-bi won't take no for an answer, and before long her abilities start to change Myeong-seong's mind, while at the same time attracting unwanted attention.

After Kiss Sixth Sense, Jinxed at First is the second show in as many months to present us with a woman able to foresee someone's future when she makes contact with them.

Jinxed at First has a lot more fun with its concept, compared to Kiss Sixth Sense, but in this case it may be too much of a good thing. The show comes on a little strong with an aggressive cocktail of overloaded whimsy and off-putting cuteness.

Na In-woo as Soo-gwang/Myeong-seong (left) and Seohyun as Seul-bi in a still from Jinxed at First.
PHOTO: Viu

The tonal overload is matched by a busy set-up that swings between big emotional events while skimming over any semblance of narrative cohesion.

When the story jumps to the familiar surroundings of Seodong Market, which calls to mind similar troupes of endearingly cantankerous merchant characters in Link: Eat, Love, Kill, currently screening, and Vincenzo, the story mercifully begins to slow down and settle into some kind of a groove.

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Recently seen in the BDSM-themed Netflix romcom Love and Leashes, Seohyun comes across as a bit of a hyperactive pixie, while her co-star Na In-woo, who scored his first leading role last year when he took over from the dismissed Ji Soo in River Where the Moon Rises, could also use a little time to settle into his role.

Jinxed at First is streaming on Viu.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.