Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kat's K-Dramas: The Moon that Embraces the Sun

This week I binge watched The Moon that Embraces the Sun.

And by binge watched I mean BINGE WATCHED. I couldn't stay away! I loved this saeguk drama so much. 

해를 품은 달
Genre: Historical/Saeguk, Romance, Drama

Episodes: 20
Aired: 2012-Jan-04 to 2012-Mar-15
Network: MBC
Starring: Kim Soo HyunHan Ga InJung Il WooKim Min Seo
Young Cast: Yeo Jin GooKim Yoo JungLee Min HoKim So Hyun 
Watch it on: Dramafever, Viki, Netflix

The story of the secret love between Lee Hwon, a fictional king of Joseon, and Weol, a female shaman. Weol was born as Heo Yeon Woo, the daughter of a noble family who won the love of the crown prince, Hwon. Her enemies, jealous of her family's position in court, schemed against her and wrestled away her rightful place as crown princess and nearly takes her life. Years later, an embittered Hwon meets Weol, now a female shaman who has no recollection of her past.

Main Character: Heo Yeon Woo - a sweet, intelligent, and graceful noblewoman. She is a good daughter and sister. I liked her as the main character, but since she has some memory loss in the middle of the series her character does go through some shifts and changes (and, as you'll see below, I have a preference for the younger Yeon Woo).

Love Interest/Second Main Character: Prince/King Lee Hwon - I really loved him as the prince. He was so fun and sweet. It made me sad to see him become bitter as a grown king, but then again he was manipulated by some of the people closest to him, so his bitterness doesn't take away from his character, and actually kind of adds needed layers to it.

Secondary Love Interest: Prince Yang Myung - a great second lead. He describes himself as a "useless man." He says that he has to smile to hide things that hurt him. That characteristic really  makes me sad, the idea that someone has to use smiles to hide their pain.

Setting: Joseon Period Korea

Random Thoughts: Possibly my favorite Saeguk (so far).

Also, the first time I've loved the child actors just as much (possibly more?) than the adult actors. Seriously, this drama stayed with the child actors for six episodes and I was actually sad when they grew up (then I saw Kim Soo Hyun and I was no longer sad. Love him!)

I think that people were also super excited about Jung Il-Woo as well (Probably because he was super cute in Flower Boy Ramen Shop). But I am partial to Kim Soo Hyun, so I was so happy with the main characters. Actually Han Ga In was the only lead actor that I wasn't excited about. I still thought she did a good job in her lead role as Weol/Yeon Woo, but she didn't blow me away like Kim Soo Hyun and Jung Il Woo did.

This drama had a lot of good aspects. For me, it was interesting the whole time. There might have been one or two episodes where thing got dragged out a little more than I'd like. But two out of twenty is not bad. The fact that they took six episodes to set up the future story, yet still kept my interest, is saying a lot. I like quick backstories so I can get into the meat of a drama. But I found myself missing the young actors at times (but they did utilize some great flashbacks so I wasn't without the wonderful Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Yoo Jung for too long).

Moon didn't do anything new (e.g. a lot of the plot points and mechanisms it used to drive the plot forward have been used many times in both Korean Dramas and other stories). However, I think this was a well developed, well written drama. I don't think all dramas need to recreate the wheel, if it can do story telling well then I am good to go for 16-25 episodes. And if there is great acting and great emotion then I am super sold on a show. Like I've already said, Moon had that in spades with it's male leads.

Because this is a saeguk, there are some very Korean cultural topics that much of the plot and the drama is based on. So, prepare yourself for lots of colorful hanboks and ceremonial garb, as well as a lot of fantastical elements related to Korean shamanism.

In any KDrama with mistaken identity/hidden identity and political intrigue there are always certain elements. Some of them I love and some of them I hate. Moon used them all and I kind of loved them all. That's how awesome this show was. There was angst, oh so much of it, but it was acted so wonderfully. Especially by Kim Soo Hyun and Jung Il Woo. Seriously these guys are hotties and they can act, the total package. And Yeo Jin Goo gets a serious honorable mention for his awesome scenes, he seriously made me cry. There was also secret meetings, shady dealings, and secret missions on both the good guy and the baddie sides. These usually get too drawn out, but this time I thought there was just enough intrigue while keeping the plot moving forward. Finally, there was the dreaded self sacrifice (by Yeon Woo/Weol mostly). I kind of hate self sacrifice as a mechanism for increasing tension. But it actually worked in this series and wasn't drawn out too long.

I would 100% recommend this show. I loved it and could not wait to see what happened next. Lots of romance, comedy, friendship/bromance, and a solid plot.

Recommendations: If you liked Kim Soo Hyun as a jaded yet powerful man in Moon then try My Love from Another Star.


Favorite episodes: 
Episode 6 - best time jump
Episode14 - best reveal/remembering episode
Episode 17 - best romance
Episode 18 - best meta episode

Character Awards:

Most adorable - young Heo Yeon Woo
Most clueless - Heo Yeom
Biggest brat - Princess Min Hwa
Best crier - young Prince Hwon and adult King Hwon
Best comic relief - Cheif Eunuch Hyung Sun
Most evil - Tie between Dowager Queen and Minister Yoon Dae Hyung
Most pathetic - Yoon Bo Kyung

Comparing Young Actor to Adult Actor:

Young Heo Yeon Woo (Kim Yoo Jung> Older Heo Yeon Woo ( Han Ga In- this comparison doesn't mean Older Yeon Woo was bad. It actually just means the Young Yeon Woo was phenomenal. Seriously, I am a huge fan of Kim Yoo Jung now after watching her in this drama. I thought Han Ga In did a fine job as a kind main character. However, if she was the only actor playing Yeon Woo in this show I wouldn't have loved Yeon Woo as much as I did. Kim Yoo Jung dide a wonderful job creating a great foundation for Yeon Woo in the first six episodes.
Young Lee Hwon (Yeo Jin Goo) = Older Lee Hwon (Kim Soo Hyun) - I consider this a huge compliment to Yeo Jin Goo. I am a very big fan of Kim Soo Hyun. This could be because I watched his more recent drama, My Love From Another Star, and he was great in that. Or maybe because I liked him in Dream High. Either way, I'm a tried and true Kim Soo Hyun fan. So the fact that Yeo Jin Goo made such an impression on me as younger Lee Hwon really stuck out. He had great emotion and was so fun as a young prince in love. I think this was a great pairing of younger and older actor who met on the same level.

Young Yang Myung (Lee Min Ho) < Older Yang Myung (Jung Il Woo) - I don't think Lee Min Ho (not to be confused with the other Lee Min Ho) had a huge chance of surpassing Jung Il Woo. Jung Il Woo is a pretty great main lead (see Flower Boy Ramen Shop) so he was a pretty great casting choice for the very complicated and
handsome second lead in this show. I am always wary of love triangles, I often get annoyed quickly with second leads. But Jung Il Woo's Prince Yang Myung was just so complex, handsome, funny, and interesting. I really did want his complete happiness. And he made all the right choices (in my mind). So perhaps Lee Min Ho really never had a chance since young Yang Myung was just there to be angsty.
Young Heo Yeom (Siwan) > Older Heo Yeom (Song Jae Hee) - I didn't hate Song Jae Hee as the older Yeom, but I just loved Siwan as the handsome and beloved younger Yeom. I think it also has to do with the fact that when Yeom was younger he had a lot more substance. The older Yeom was a peripheral character that was yanked around by the people around him.
Young Seol (Seo Ji Hee) = Older Seol (Yoon Seung Ah) - To be fair Seol was definitely a side character, but I really liked young Seol and how loyal she was to Yeon Woo and the Heo family. So I was really happy that I liked Older Seol just as equally.



I really liked the ending. I thought that it came to a climax that was worthy of the build-up. Some dramas don't do this, so I really appreciate one that does. The right people were punished, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't relish the death of Minister Yoon. He was too evil (seriously a father that can throw away his daughter because she is no longer politically useful? Worst. Ever!). I also thought that the dowager queen's death was super appropriate. She was way too greedy and got too big for her britches. The fact that her death was a quiet poisoning felt right. She didn't deserve a big death, and she super deserved to be betrayed by the horrible people she surrounded herself with.

I liked that the people who deserved to be punished were punished. There are some dramas that allow the evil people to turn it around and repent in the eleventh hour and everyone lives all happy at the end. Call me a cynic, but that's just not how the world works. Sometimes there are bad people who will never be redeemed, and they should be made to face the consequences of their actions. Young Prince Hwon said so much in a flashback. He told the old king that just because the evil people are your blood relatives doesn't mean they deserve to have their misdeeds covered up. He claims he will be a just and fair king, and he proves his younger self right. I like that the drama followed through on this claim, and it punished the people who did bad things. For example, punishing Princess Min Hwa and Chief Shaman Jang is right since they did evil things. The fact that Min Hwa was young and naive shouldn't have saved her from judgement. The fact that Chief Shaman Jang protected Yeon Woo for eight years doesn't mean she didn't curse her in the first place. They both deserved to be punished and they both were.

I also like that Princess Min Hwa wasn't immediately regretful of her actions. The scene where she tells the king she would do it again just killed me. It made me so mad at her, but it also made her a more complex character for me. Where before she had been a very two-dimensional character. I also liked that though Yeon Woo was kind to her in the end, she was firm. Yeon Woo said that she would forgive Min Hwa for the sake of the king and Yeom, not for Min Hwa's sake. Yeon Woo tells Min Hwa that she needs to take responsibility and repent so that she can come to Yeon Woo in the future and sincerely ask for forgiveness. I loved this scene. It fit both characters perfectly and showed that not everything is so easily fixed.

I was bawling during Seol's final scene. I loved that she loved Yeom. I also loved that her love for him was so sweet. She never wanted to be with him romantically, she just wanted him to be happy. It was self-sacrificing, but seemed appropriate. She was a great side character, and I was really sad that she had to die (but it also seemed like something that helped push the plot forward emotionally).

I cried even harder (if that's possible) at Prince Yang Myung's death. At first I was like "WTF?! Why is no one saving him? Why does he have to die?" But it was all explained when Yang Myung's voiceover said that if he was still around he could be used to raise more rebellions against the king. The fact that he had to die makes me mad, but the fact that he loved his country and his brother enough to die was so noble and sweet. I thought Yang Myung was a wonderful character, maybe one of my all time favorite second leads. He was really well developed and always stayed at a high level of character. 

Meanwhile, Bo Kyung's death, much like her entire character, was so pathetic. She commits suicide after being driven partly crazy by her guilt and the fact that she was being abandoned by her father and the king. While she definitely didn't deserve to be used to blatantly by the people around her, she also kind of contributed to her own fate. She knew that her father was planning to kill Yeon Woo and did nothing, she even went so far as to try to curse Yeon Woo herself. She was definitely not an innocent victim (as the Shaman says after the botched curse). I didn't think Bo Kyung needed to die, but I also see how her suicide fits her character and the story.


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