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I became addicted to this fine Korean drama series in the late spring of 2007, when I got sick of paying my cable company over $50 a month for premium service and switched back to the Limited Basic package for less than $20/month. As a result I was forced to look through some of the foreign-language-network offerings, and lo and behold, found this gem of a quasi-historical Korean epic costume drama on AZN.
Now admittedly, there is a fair bit of pretty silly stuff going on in this series (see the Minuses section below), but the good far outweighs the bad. I especially like the humorous character vignettes, for instance the Iron Chamber master Mo Palmo always cracks me up. :)
Good acting, especially from the actors who play the following characters:
* Emperor Kumwa - The MacBeth of Jumong; carries much of the first 50 episodes of the show. Watching the actor who plays him, I can't help being reminded a little bit of Toshiro Mifune.
* Prime Minister Unavoidable - with a name like that, how can you not like this guy?
* Sorceress Yeo Mieul (I admit she took a while to grow on me)
* Sosuhno - Love those take-charge gals who can do it without being nasty
* Prince Taeso - Every great drama needs a quality bad guy, and the conflicted Taeso is a worthy foil to Jumong.
* Prince Youngpo - The feckless prince #2. I love it when he does his "evil scheming" face. :D
* Keru Troop Chief Yuntabal - Like the name says, this guy has major, um, guts, I love it when he (literally) laughs in the face of the bad guys. Also just plain a fine dramatic actor.
* Oi, Mari, Hyoppo: Jumong's 3 Musketeers. Especially like the "forbidden love" subplot involving tough-guy Hyoppo and someone from Sosuhno's Keru troop. The later addition of the reformed bandits as their 3 counterparts and oft-times rivals makes for a great ongoing source of tension and humor.
* Mo Palmo and his friend, the chief of the Guards - absolutely hilarious pair, they're like the Laurel and Hardy of Korean Costume drama.
Gorgeous Women (I'm a guy, so I admit I was looking more at the ladies ;): Sosuhno, Ye Soya, Buyong and Lady Yuhwa are all major hotties. Even the bad girls have their moments. :) And did I mention the costumes?
Jumong: I know I'm probably going to catch a lot of flak for his, but Song Il-Guk's portrayal just lacks something. Perhaps this is partly the fault of the series writers, but it's just not as convincing as it should be.
Too many royal people sitting at fancy carved tables doing nothing at the start of scenes - I mean, don't these people read, or do needlework, or paint, or play board games? A missed opportunity for adding depth and texture to the series.
Fight scenes way too unrealistic (at least for my taste) - OK, I realize you probably can't have severed heads, limbs and guts flying around without alienating a large part of the audience, but could we maybe occasionally have a little *blood*? (And not just a dab on the tip of some guy's sword). And, all these good guys fighting brutal battles and coming out without a scratch? (except for "designated manly upper arm wound guy".) Or even breaking a sweat...
But as I said, the negatives are far outweighed by the good stuff - unless you're the kind of person who insists on "realism" (whatever that means) in all aspects of a show.
All in all, excellent entertainment for the whole family - highly recommended. 8/10
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