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'Hellbound' vs 'Squid Game': What global chart says about two Korean dramas

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A still of director Yeon Sang-ho's
A still of director Yeon Sang-ho's "Hellbound" / Courtesy of Netflix

Popularity of 'Hellbound' appears not to be as solid as that of 'Squid Game'

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Writer-director Yeon Sang-ho's fantasy drama, "Hellbound," has topped the top 10 Netflix shows list only 24 hours after its official release last Friday.

The Korean drama was quick to rise to global stardom, generating quite a buzz in the Korean entertainment industry, with some hastily predicting that the fantasy drama could become another "Squid Game," which has become the most-watched Netflix series ever.

Despite sharing some parallels, the two Netflix original series are different in terms of their paths to success and audience reactions.

"Hellbound" was quicker to top the global charts than "Squid Game." It took only a day to rise to the No. 1 spot on Netflix's top 10 most watched shows, while "Squid Game" won the same title eight days after its official release.

The global streaming chart, uploaded by FlixPatrol, a website that updates daily VOD charts for 175 streaming platforms in 76 countries worldwide, shows that "Squid Game" has enjoyed more lasting popularity than "Hellbound."

"Squid Game" has continued to top the Netflix show chart for weeks, whereas "Hellbound" was overtaken by the animated series, "Arcane," just a day after the former topped the chart.

"Hellbound" deals with serious topics, such as life and death, sin and punishment, and the clash of humans and God in judgment about what makes people sinful. In the fantasy drama, angels give a warning of death to those who are doomed to die soon and unearthly creatures execute the prophecy at their respective times of death. They brutally demonstrate in public what kind of pain sinful men and women must endure in hell before taking their lives, creating fear among bystanders.

Director Yeon voiced excitement over the strong start of his drama on Netflix. In a media interview, he said that it was a nice surprise to know that his drama rose to No. 1 on Netflix only a day after it was released on the global streaming giant.

Asked why he thinks his drama became an instant global hit, he said its universal topics and genre ― cosmic horror ― seem to have appealed to global fans.

"Squid Game" was the most popular show in 90 countries in early October. Its popularity touched almost all cultures. In comparison, "Hellbound" is currently the No. 1 show in 29 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. In the United States and Canada, it ranked 3rd.

Audience reviews of the two dramas also show the differences: "Squid Game" received overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans in most countries, whereas viewers' reactions to "Hellbound" are mixed, if not divided.

One viewer, named Udai Shamkar, who gave a review of five stars out of the five-star scale, wrote, "Hallyu is real and it's only getting stronger," adding that he loved the drama.

Meanwhile, another viewer, John-Paul Dubenion, gave a three-star review.

"It is worth at least watching," he wrote. "'Hellbound' hooked for the first three episodes but after that the show created some elements that made no sense at all. You could call those elements random plot twists thrown in to make the story work. There were parts that flowed well, other parts seemed to be thrown in to make it work."

Three South Korean dramas, namely "Hellbound," "Squid Game," and the tvN drama, "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha," were in the top 10 Netflix show category on Monday, showing that Korean dramas have a strong presence on the global streaming service.

Having aired from August to October this year, the popular TV series, "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha," revolves around a city girl who falls in love with a man from a small fishing town after she opens a dental clinic there.

A still of
A still of "Hellbound" / Courtesy of Netflix
Kang Hyun-kyung hkang@koreatimes.co.kr


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