Given the rise in female-centric shows such as Girls High School Mystery Class and Sixth Sense, as well as female MCs like Meenoi‘s Yorizori and Lee Young-ji‘s No Prepare, it’s no surprise that Na Young-seok PD’s (Na PD) most recent project, Earth Arcade, falls neatly into this category.
While the show’s title sounds a little odd, Earth Arcade properly encapsulates the premise of the show. As the name suggests, the series features four warriors (Comedienne Lee Eun-ji, Oh My Girl’s Mimi, winner of High School Rapper 3, Lee Young-ji, and Ive’s Yujin) who play various game missions, known as “levels”, in Thailand to capture Torong, a fictional rabbit character, who has escaped from the moon to Earth.
For avid viewers of Na PD’s past works, it is immediately notable that the series shares many similarities with his most recognised programme, New Journey to the West, where the cast travels to various countries in accordance with a theme. Fortunately, the opening of borders allowed the team to travel to Bangkok, Koh Samui, and the province of Gangwon-do for a retreat.
At first glance, it appears as if the show was off to a rough start as it repeatedly emphasised how the members have never met. In contrast to the male cast (where members such as Kang Ho-dong, Lee Su-geun, and Eun Ji-won) have worked together for years, most of the members of Earth Arcade have never worked or even met with one another until their first meeting.
Although awkwardness and shyness were expected, this is not the case with the members. Despite only having met once, their chemistry is off the charts. Just one episode into the series, it is clear that cast chemistry becomes Earth Arcade‘s key selling point. Whether this is due to Na PD’s genius casting or the members being natural entertainers despite not having prior variety show experience for most of them is debatable.
While many dub Earth Arcade as “the female version of New Journey to the West”, the cast is unlike its counterpart in many ways. For one, the quartet is young, energetic, chatty, and feisty. Moreover, at various points, they are often straightforward with their requests and they don’t shy away from challenging or defying Na PD.
For instance, Young-ji—who can’t seem to sit still—constantly asks Na PD to create more games, to the point where Na PD and his team have to force them to sit and rest. Though this is to no avail as the four members of the MZ Generation pride themselves on being highly energetic. When given a break, they choose to play among themselves, endlessly dancing and singing, and even filming vlogs or Youtube videos instead of napping, like the older male cast.
Additionally, described as “an encounter of a new generation and an old production crew”, the huge generational gap between the cast and Na PD (a member of Generation X) makes for many funny moments. Highlighting this gap, Na PD, for example, is less into “young people’s things” and does not know what an “ending fairy” is, much to the surprise of the members who are “obsessed” with being one.
As opposed to the rather mellow New Journey to the West cast, the Earth Arcade members are loud — and in the best way possible, shameless to boot. Yujin, for instance, is not afraid to challenge Na PD and take his place as the game host to give him a taste of his “medicine” as she attempts to quiz him on his popular 4-word idiom. Young-ji and Yujin, the two younger members, also don’t hesitate to affectionately refer to Na PD as “Young-seokie hyung”.
Simply put, Earth Arcade is full of energy. Thankfully, this is to their advantage as they clearly know how to have fun, not just for the camera, but also among themselves off-camera. And naturally, this translates to genuine fun and enjoyment in front of the camera.
Thus far, the quartet seems to thrive as a team. Thankfully, this isn’t the case as they also work well individually, with each having their own (somewhat) distinct character. Young-ji is a definite standout. She is their mood-maker right away and is known as the “rowdy one”. She is very loud, straightforward, naturally friendly, and knows how to have fun. Oftentimes, she leads and initiates games, especially when playing the Strawberry Game. Even though she finds it challenging to keep up with the beat herself, Young-ji occasionally quickens the pace to keep things exciting.
Eun-ji, the eldest member and a regular on the popular tv series Comedy Big League, also knows how to lighten the mood and isn’t afraid to pull off “ugly” and exaggerated facial expressions to make everyone laugh, including the cast and crew. On the other hand, Yujin, a newbie at variety mostly plays into her idol persona; she’s a tad bit similar to Mijoo on Hangout With Yoo and Sixth Sense. Though subsequently, it is comforting to see that she found a new character to play—the quiet but crazy one—drawing similarities to Ahn Jae-hyun from New Journey to the West. As for Mimi, while she has yet to find her character for now, she is known as the one who mumbles and cannot hear well. This has consequently created a number of funny moments.
Games are characteristic of Na PD’s works and Earth Arcade is no different. Like New Journey to the West and Game Caterers, Na PD brings back a couple of familiar games from these shows. Notably, Na PD chooses games that appeal to the new generation, such as “the music quiz” and “the Strawberry game”; the team even goes so far as to introduce new games just for the very trendy members, “Group random play dance”.
On top of that, like New Journey to the West, “catching Torong” is the show’s overarching game, which, contrary to the staff’s expectations, the members are very good at. They outsmarted Na PD with Yujin catching Torong twice, and he had to admit that he heavily underestimated them.
All in all, it is time for women to be at the forefront of variety shows. Earth Arcade is a show that should have been done earlier. The show’s a quick hit among Generation MZ viewers. With an easy-to-love cast, familiar games, perfect pace and location, it is a gold mine. As avid viewers of Na PD’s work may know, it has been two years since the last season of New Journey to the West. While many have speculated that this show was a cover-up for Mino and P.O. while they are serving in the military, a handful of viewers are also hoping that Na PD and his team alternate between the two shows.