When Alchemy of Souls first came out on Korean television, and later the streaming platform Netflix, it was unlike anything fans of K-dramas had seen before. In East Asia, Chinese dramas have been exploring elements of fantasy and history for several years now, but Korean dramas largely have stayed away from going beyond the conventional structure where there are a limited number of episodes. No dramas also have ventured deep into the territory of building an entirely new world, especially in historical fantasy contexts, so Alchemy of Souls was very exciting when it was released. Some shows have delved into fantasy, but never this far.
Starring Lee Jae-wook, Jung So-min, Go Youn-jung, and Hwang Min-hyun in the lead roles, Alchemy of Souls tells the story of a feared assassin, Nak-su, who finds herself trapped in the body of a weaker woman. Forced to confront the world without her strength and powers, she becomes the master of a member of a noble family: Jang Uk. Jang Uk’s power was sealed away by the kingdom, but with the help of Nak-su, he is about to unlock his full capabilities. But as evil individuals start to create some sinister plans, all the characters’ lives are about to change for the worse. These are the best characters in the series ranked.
12 Seo Yun-oh
Seo Yun-oh, portrayed by actor Do Sang-woo, appears in Alchemy of Souls later on, specifically in the second half of the show. The uncle of the character Seo Yul, Seo Yun-oh is a member of the Seo family. As it turns out in the second season, Jin Bu-yeon of the Jin family is preparing to get married to a Seo family member, and Seo Yul and Seo Yun-oh have to travel from the Seoho Fortress to come to the wedding. But Seo Yun-oh doesn’t have the greatest intentions when he arrives, as he is looking for a way to gain more power in the kingdom. He joins forces with the antagonist, Jin Mu, which places him on the side of evil.
11 Jin Ho-gyeong
The matriarch of the Jin family, Jin Ho-gyeong oversees the treasures of Jinyowon. The Jin family, in their cellar, keeps an array of magical items and creatures that one simply isn’t allowed to touch without some kind of permission. Although she is rather hard-headed and stoic in the first season, the second season reveals Ho-gyeong’s grief after the disappearance of her elder daughter and the methods of her scheming. Her decisions and magical prowess are what lead to the events of the second part of the series. Park Eun-hye portrays Jin Ho-gyeong throughout the television series.
10 Jang Gang
Jang Gang (Joo Sang-wook) is one of the more interesting characters found throughout Alchemy of Souls. Jang Gang was a skilled mage who partially caused the events of the series to happen; he learned about how to eject souls from one’s body, which completely changed the nation upon his discovery. At the beginning of the series, Jang Gang changed souls with the sickly king at the time, which completely ruined Jang Gang’s life. As the father of Jang Uk, he kept the fact he was his son’s father a secret. Jin Mu also learned the alchemy of souls from Jang Gang.
9 Jin Cho-yeon
Jin Cho-yeon (Arin) is considered the personification of spring in Alchemy of Souls, and one of the four children that represent their noble families. Jin Cho-yeon is next in line for the lineage of Jinyowon, and a romance is afoot in the drama between her and Park Dang-gu, although that is dashed originally by the events that happened in the season one finale. Although Jin Cho-yeon is considered to be a member of the four seasons, a child of a noble family, she’s often delegated to a passive role throughout the series, leaving her underutilized in the plot.
8 Kim Yeon
Kim Yeon, or Maidservant Kim (Oh Na-ra), has one romance subplot throughout the television series. After the death of Jang Uk’s mother, it’s Maidservant Kim who raises and takes care of Jang Uk when he grows up. As the series progresses, Kim Yeon has a really cute romance with the head of Songrim, Park Jin, which may require some sacrifices if it’s going to work. But as more threats close in on everyone, their relationship is threatened in a way unlike any other.
7 Park Jin
The current head of Songrim at the start of the series, Park Jin (Yoo Jun-sang) is a formidable leader. One of the most talented and powerful mages in the land, it’s Park Jin who prevents others from allowing Jang Uk to be trained and have his inner gate unlocked. As the threat of soul shifters increases inside the walls of Songrim and the kingdom, Park Jin has to make some hard decisions, especially when Mu-deok teaches Jang Uk the art of being a mage.
6 Park Dang-gu
Park Dang-gu (Yoo In-soo) is destined to become the next leader of Songrim, and, for a drama set in a historical period of Korea, he’s got a modern style with how he dresses and does his makeup. Park Dang-gu is one of the four seasons, and a highly skilled mage because of his training and background. However, there’s a caveat to his storyline: he’s been deeply in love with Jin Cho-yeon since he was a kid. Many opposed the prospects of their relationship, and by season two’s start, it was pretty rocky for everyone involved,
5 Jin Mu
Jin Mu (Jo Jae-yoon) is the antagonist of Alchemy of Souls and an illegitimate child in the house of Jinyowon. An advisor to the royal family and the teacher of the Crown Prince, his influence runs deep in the affairs of the kingdom. However, Jin Mu doesn’t have the best intentions when it comes to down to what’s important to other people. He is willing to kill and use people to get what he wants, and, in the season one finale, he is the reason that Jang Uk and Mu-deok are torn apart. By season two, people are beginning to realize the extent of the damage that he has done.
The Crown Prince of Daeho, the kingdom in which Alchemy of Souls is set, Go-won (Shin Seung-ho) is thrust into a series of strange circumstances. Because of the royal family’s connections to the alchemy of souls, and the fact one of the royals isn’t who they say they are, Go-won has to confront the reality of what’s happening in the series directly. He decides when he will rise to the throne he will be a fair ruler, but this becomes clouded as he is the pupil of the antagonist, Jin Mu. But as Go-won becomes more involved with Mu-deok and Jang Uk’s affairs, he has a change of heart — and a new romantic interest.
3 Jang Uk
Jang Uk (Lee Jae-wook) is the male protagonist of Alchemy of Souls, and throughout the series, his character goes through a massive series of shifts. He starts as a powerless son of a noble family who wants to learn more, and through the teachings of Mu-deok, he becomes highly skilled as a mage when she unlocks his inner gate. However, by the second half of the series, he has the ice stone trapped inside his body, and he actively begins to hunt soul shifters for the government. His personality completely changed after season one, but as season two progresses, it thaws.
2 Seo Yul
Portrayed by Hwang Min-hyun, a K-pop idol turned actor, the character of Seo Yul is the second male lead. A member of the Seo family, he was childhood friends with Nak-su, which is what allows him to realize Mu-deok is Nak-su but in a different body. One of the most observant and talented mages at Songrim, he proves himself to be capable in a wide variety of situations. But as a character, he manages to be one of the more nuanced ones, as he is organically able to build a broad range of relationships with many different characters.
1 Mu-deok & Jin Bu-yeon
The main female character of Alchemy of Souls goes by a wide variety of names throughout her time in the series: Mu-deok, Nak-su, and Jin Bu-yeon. At the beginning of the series, she performs the alchemy of souls while in her original body (Nak-su), and ends up in the weak body of Mu-deok. Although she becomes Jin Bu-yeon by the second half of the series, this female lead isn’t going to sit around and let her time go to waste. She is the reason Jang Uk is capable of becoming powerful, and she proves to be an effective teacher while at Songrim. As Mu-deok, she also is quite the actress while pretending not to be Nak-su originally.