A 900-year-old general, unable to die, but no longer quite living. A grim reaper who knows he committed a great sin in his earthly life but can’t remember what it was. A 19-year-old girl who can see ghosts. A beautiful restaurant owner with a mysterious connection to them all.
Knowing that we enjoy Korean dramas, my sister-in-law recommended that Brett and I watch Goblin (or Guardian: The Lonely and Great God). When Brett’s sister recommends a book or series, you can be sure it will have a good blend of fantasy and romance. The fact that she recommends it in the first place is another sign of how good it is. As a connoisseur of stories, she doesn’t recommend anything lightly.
My most-important recommendation: This series is the first series in eight years to come close to beating the BBC’s Merlin as my favorite series, and that’s saying something.
When General Kim Shin was betrayed and he and his family were assassinated, God made the decision to turn him into a goblin, blessed (or cursed) to walk the earth until he finds “the goblin bride,” a woman who can free him and allow him to pass on to death. After years of searching and losing hope, Kim Shin isn’t expecting that woman to be a 21st-century high school senior who is oddly optimistic, despite the fact she is surrounded by death. In getting to know Ji Eun Tak, Kim Shin realizes that he is not ready to let go of this life that he has for so long been desperate to escape.
Another wrench thrown into Kim Shin’s life is that, after centuries of living alone, he finds that his “nephew” (a young man from a family bound to serve and guard the goblin through their lives and generations), has rented out a room in the goblin’s house to a grim reaper. This living arrangement is my favorite aspect of the story. Unlike other portrayals of the grim reaper, the character in this series is not cold and heartless. He feels sympathy for the good people he helps on their journey to the afterlife and exacts necessary justice on the bad. The unlikely friendship that forms between Kim Shin and the grim reaper (who can’t remember the name he carried in life) brings much of shows humor and action.
Though I struggled sometimes with the elements of Eastern religion blended with Western religion and didn’t exactly agree with the writers’ perception of God, the overall message and lessons of this story have a strong impact. I can forgive the creators for not having the same views on life and death that I do.
I was expecting this series to be a sweet little romance with some action thrown in here and there. What I found was an exploration of fate, destiny, friendship, forgiveness, and mercy. Goblin is a richly crafted story, predictable in the right ways and full of surprises in the rest. For some characters, I hoped for mercy, while wanting justice for others. Almost nothing was as straightforward as it seemed, but it all played out beautifully. With some scenes, Brett and I couldn’t stop laughing, while others brought tears to my eyes.
Goblin is currently available to view on viki.com. The free service allows you to watch every episode with occasional ad breaks, though often the ads interrupt a scene in the middle instead of waiting until the end. This is how we watched it. Or, you can purchase their premium service and see it ad-free. Each of the sixteen episodes are of varying lengths between 1 and 1½ hours. Some behind-the-scenes features are also included (which I haven’t seen). Personally, I plan to buy the series on DVD, because I know it’s one I can enjoy over and over again.