Apr. 22nd, 2008

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I've been watching a lot of kdramas recently, and have mixed feelings about them. I like them more than jdramas because they seem more professional, from the picture quality to the writing to the acting, and for the most part the characterization doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. But at the same time, the pacing and quality of kdramas is very uneven. I really liked both Hong Gil Dong and The Legend in the beginning, but in the second half, each episode they progressively got worse, and with The Legend, by the end even the characters I'd adored left me indifferent, and the storylines I'd found interesting had somehow turned so dull.

I'm currently watching Time of Dog & Wolf, which aside from the romance story I'm finding very interesting (and it totally doesn't hurt that the guy in the king & the clown is the lead - so much eye-candy XD). I can't really rec it, though, because I'm only up to episode seven, and who knows if it will degenerate the same way as the others have done.

Anyway, review.

Hong Gil Dong's somewhat of a Robin Hood tale (though, as [livejournal.com profile] tarigwaemir pointed out in the comments, isn't an adaptation of the story but is based on a Korean novel) set in an ancient korean period that reminds me of France before the revolution, where the nobles lived in luxury on the back of the peasants. Hong Gil Dong's the illegitimate son of a noble, but because of inheritance laws is regarded as little better than a slave. For most of the first episode he goes around wrecking havoc and generally acting as a frat boy on kung-fu steroids; then various stuff happens, such as him getting framed for robbery then murder then treason, and he undergoes a Joseph Campbell-type transformation and becomes a hero.

The thing that makes this drama great is how compelling and believable and non-cliche HGD's transformation is, how seamlessly the drama goes from moments of complete hilarity to heartbreak, and how clever the dialogue and writing is. The characterization, with one exception, is completely awesome. Aside from HGD there is also the prince trying to lead a revolution against his insane brother, and the story is as much about him becoming a king as about HGD becoming a hero, and the way these two interacted, how they prodded and pushed and challenged each other, was amazing. One of my favorite moments in the series is their first swordfight (you can find a screencap of it, as well as the prince, in this post) which is probably the best fight scene I've seen ever.

I said that the characterization, with one exception, was awesome. The exception was the female lead, Yi Nok. I liked her in the first couple of episodes, where with her grandfather she was trying to trick the townspeople into buying bogus medicine. But after that she become so extremely stupid, and I'm talking stupid in a 'think of all the blonde jokes you've ever heard and multiply them by a hundred' way. This is totally not an exaggeration, btw. As just one example, a scene where Yi Nok's rescuer is trying to keep his identity secret:

slight spoiler )

...and that is not even the worst of it. I keyboard mash. A lot.

But, on the whole, in the beginning, I loved this drama, and was ready to rec it with glowy-eyed praise, until I stumbled over later developments, which made me hate it. major, MAJOR spoilers ahead )


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