Thursday, March 15, 2018

Five Years of Asian Dramas

I haven't posted on this blog for a while because I have been contributing to another blog, Dramas With a Side of Kimchi. It has been fun to work on a larger blog and to contribute to group posts and interact with other bloggers. There probably won't be much here any more, but my Ides of March posts belong here still. Last year at the Ides of March cutoff, I was in the middle of three dramas which didn't get discussed then, so I'll begin with those. For the record, it's been five years since I began watching Asian dramas.

Korean Dramas:

Chief Kim: Namgoong Min, who had been eating it up as a crazy villain, shows his funny side as a crooked accountant with a conscience. He is hired to cook the books for a large firm and then starts to feel sympathy for the employees who are being shortchanged. ****

Tomorrow With You: A man visits the future by riding on the subway and discovers that he needs to be married tp be happy. I looked forward to this one because of the actors, Lee Je-hoon from Signal and Shin Min-a from My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. Sadly it was a disappointment; the couple didn't click and the plot went nowhere. Questions about the other time traveler never get answered, although we do find out who he is. And if the guy can time travel because he missed the train explosion, why couldn't the girl do it as well? **

Forest of Secrets (aka Stranger): Perhaps my favorite drama of last year, this is a detective drama in which the characters are as good as the plot twists. A prosecutor (played by Cho Seung-woo) whose childhood brain surgery has curtailed his ability to access his emotions, opens up when he encounters a lively police woman (Bae Doona) who is perhaps his first real friend. They follow a twisted trail from a murder to uncover political corruption. *****

Father is Strange: I really enjoyed my first really long (52 episode) family drama. It is about a family who all love and support each other and yet all have secrets. We have someone living under an assumed name, someone keeping painful secrets from a lover, another person with a secret love affair, and one who is still haunted by being bullied. Lee Joon's acting was stellar. ****

Man to Man: Park Hae-jin stars as a secret ops agent who is infallible – the first half of the drama anyway. The story was entertaining at first but went downhill, and I didn't like the leading actress. **

Chicago Typewriter: This is a great show but you have to get a few episode in, and get to the 1930's part. I watched originally for Yoo Ah-in but dropped after a few episodes when I got busy. Then I picked it up again and got busy watching Go Kyung-pyo. This show jumps between the story of a modern-day writer being haunted by a ghost and the 1930's when the ghost was alive and the writer was in a previous incarnation. ****

The Package: The main charm of this story is the setting in France, where all the characters go on a tour. The tour guide is Lee Yeon-hee (from Miss Korea) and the guy on the tour who likes her but keeps getting into trouble is Jung Yong-hwa (from You're Beautiful and Three Musketeers). The interest is kept up by the other travelers, especially the sweet little Ahjumma who is coping with an illness and an irascible husband. ***

Because This is My First Life: Somewhat similar to the Jdrama We Married as a Job, this tells the story of a shy man who hires a woman to clean house for him and they start to like each other. It has a lame ending involving the woman waffling around. The best part is the fluffy white cat. ***

I'm Not a Robot: A man who is allergic to humans agrees to help test a lifelike android not knowing that the android has broken down and a real woman is impersonating it. Yoo Seung-ho and Chae Soo-bin were very cute, but the robot was intriguing and I thought they shortchanged it. *****

Just Between Lovers: This is not a show I had thought about ahead of time but really liked once we tried it out. Lee Joon-ho, who had been in Chief Kim, is great as the young man with PTSD who falls for a girl who survived a mall collapse with him. Won Jin-a is a newbie who does a great job as a young woman coping with survivors guilt and parents who can't move past the calamity. *****

I Am... : A robotics engineer leaves a lifelike android robot with his grown children and disappears. The daughter, a high school teacher, takes to the robot, calls it Annie, and enrolls it in her school. Cute. ***

As One: A movie about a pan-Asian table tennis tournament in which the North Korean and South Korean teams field a joint team. Based on a true story. ***

Chinese Drama:

Nirvana in Fire: A Chinese historical fiction with 54 episodes. A young nobleman whose family and retainers are killed due to political infighting and treachery, spends years planning how to get the truth out and restore their honor. A few people who knew him from his youth help him; a man who now a general, his fiancee, and the widow of one of his officers. A royal prince and a couple of nobles who don't recognize him become his friends in his new identity and help him as well. ****

Japanese Dramas:

Sunshine: This tells the story of a young girl as she grows up, from her life in the countryside in the 1930's, to her years as a school teacher in World War II, and her married life with her in-laws in the years following. It is interesting to see how things change, and very strange to see the people at school cheer the news of Pearl Harbor. ***

Long Vacation: A young man is on the cusp of being a professional pianist. His roommate moves out to get married, but jilts the girl and disappears. The girl then shows up on the doorstep needing help, followed by her friends and brother. This stars Takuya Kimura, who was in Ando Lloyd. ****

Hero: Another Takuya Kimura drama, and quite humerous. He plays a prosecutor who investigates his cases in unorthodox ways. All the other staff feel he is way too casual and not serious enough, but he picks up on little hints in the cases that no one else notices and is able to solve them. *****

Go Teddy Go!: A short 4-episode drama about a magical teddy bear that speaks because someone's spirit is captured inside it. Silly. *

Gokusen: A young teacher doesn't want anyone at the school to know that she is the granddaughter of a yakuza boss. She overreacts from time to time but nevertheless is able to connect well with her more rebellious students. And although she is usually quite retiring, whenever anyone really gets into trouble, she is able to thrash the enemy. **

Atelier: A young woman's first job out of college is at an elite lingerie shop. The boss is pretty much the mean boss from The Devil Wears Prada. **

I am Reiko Shiratori: A rich arrogant girl tells a boy that he's not good enough for her and then tries to get him back. A light-hearted show mostly for pre-teen girls. **

Dad of Light: A man tries to reconnect with his father by playing Final Fantasy together, which they had done for a while when he was a kid. Based on a true story. ***

RyomaDen: A historical drama based on the life of Sakamoto Ryoma, who lived when Matthew Perry visited Japan. He saw the upheavel in Japanese society and worked to get his people to get along with each other and to modernize so they could cope well with the incoming foreigners. *****

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kdrama Fathers

Last year I did a Mothers Day post on Kdrama mothers, and decided that this year I would do a Fathers Day post. Forgot. Here we are, a little late, but it's still June, so...

There are an awful lot of bad fathers in Kdramas, perhaps because there has to be conflict somewhere in the story. Doesn't have to be the main characters' families though, just saying. There are your loser dads who desert their families because they are hiding from loan sharks (Mary Stayed Out All Night) or other reasons. (Tomorrow With You - was the heroine's dad just hiding from his wife?)  There are your tyrannical chaebol dads who think they can run everyone else's lives. (Heirs and Heard it Through the Grapevine) And there are your dads who are corrupt heads of a company or hospital. (Chief Kim and Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim - although these were dads of supporting characters.) In W: Two Worlds the dad cycles between good and bad and is perhaps the most distasteful of the lot.

Bad fathers can be charming though. The heroine in I Am Sam had a rather lovable, rather inept gangster dad. The dad in Protect the Boss was a hard-minded CEO and gang leader, who nevertheless had a soft chewy center when it came to his mother and his son, and was pretty adorable when it came to masquerading as an invalid in pajamas and a wheelchair.

The father is not the main character in too many dramas. The one in Ms. Temper and Nam Jung Gi was kind of a beta hero, and you suspect the heroine liked his little boy as much as she liked him. Please Come Back Mister featured a dad who had died and was allowed to return to earth (in another body) to redress some wrongs. He was very tender with his little girl.

Some dads don't know they are a dad. The hero in Oh My Lady suddenly finds out he has a five-year-old daughter and the one in Gentleman's Dignity gets a teenager. We watch them accept and then start to care and become responsible. There's a pretty great scene in a police station when Dad arrives and takes charge.

There are some good solid, reliable fathers who hang around in the background. (Reply 1997,  Another Oh Hae Young, Kill Me Heal Me, and even Secretary Dad in Heirs.) Some are more involved in the plot like the tough-minded North Korean general in King 2 Hearts who had a wonderful trusting relationship with his grown daughter. One of my favorites is Dad in an apron, backed up by Grandpa, Uncle, and Brother in Miss Korea.

And I can't forget the dads who aren't really the dad. In Pinocchio we have the heroine's grandfather thinking the hero is his son and raising him. In King of High School we have a foster dad and grandpa creating a family. In Couple or Trouble we have an uncle taking care of orphans.

The one I remember the most fondly is the adoptive dad in Healer, who dances to pop music with his daughter over breakfast, and chose her at the orphanage because she was so shy and needed someone so much. He's a lawyer who runs a cafe on the side to employ his ex-con clients and keep them out of trouble. They in turn become uncles to the heroine and teach her things like lock-picking.

A good dad is invaluable to a family, and in Korean dramas we have some excellent examples. Families are very important in Korea, and some of the best dramas showcase that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Four Years of Kdramas

It's the Ides of March and time to review the year of Korean dramas. This week we not only have the Ides of March, but Pi day (apple pie this time) and St. Patrick's day as well. What a busy week! We have branched out into Japanese and Chinese dramas more, which I should write about sometime. We have briefly tried and dropped quite a few dramas this year, coasted along with some, and found a lot we really liked.  Rated out of 5 stars.

Baby-Faced Beauty: is the first one of the last year; Jang Nara plays a woman in her thirties who takes the place of her younger sister at a fashion company, and falls for a man her sister's age. She is good at her work, but has cultural troubles with dating a younger man. Amusing, but too many contests.***

Page Turner: a three episode mini-drama about high school pianists who compete with each other. Problems come from a stage mother and one of them becoming blind. Great acting, we will see rising teen actress Kim So-Hyun again. *****

Please Come Back Mister: Great plot idea, not quite well executed. Two middle-aged men (an office worker and an ex-gangster) die and get sent back to earth for a second chance to fix things. One becomes a handsome young man (Rain) who should not have hit on his (previous life) wife so much, and the other a beautiful young woman (Oh Yeon-Seo) who hilariously channels the gangster. The conductor on the train to heaven steals the show. ****

He Who Can't Marry: might as well be called He Who Can't Get Along With Anybody. Two 40-year olds become interested in each other: a female doctor (Um Jung-Hwa) and a male architect who seems to have Aspergers and can't relate to anyone. It all falls apart in the end. Watched it because Yoo An-In was in it. **

Ms. Temper and Nam Jung-Gi: an overbearing middle manager is hired to save a floundering company and develops a relationship with one of the employees and his little boy, who also live in her apartment building. Very cute scenes with her (Lee Yo-Won) and the little boy (Choi Hyun-Joon). ****

Drama World: an Australian kdrama fan is pulled inside her phone and becomes part of her favorite drama. Funny but cheesy, improves as it goes along. **

Oh My Lady: a woman (Chae Rim) becomes housekeeper for a popular actor who is very self-centered. When he finds out he has a five-year-old child (the adorable Kim Yoo-Bin), she has to help take care of her and he has to learn to become thoughtful and responsible. Very good character progression by Choi Si-won. ****

Bong Soon, a Cyborg in Love: a mini drama in which scientists develop a robot that they can market to be a perfect girlfriend. One of them falls in love with her. ***

Shining Inheritance/ Brilliant Legacy: When a businessman is thought to be dead, his wife kicks out her two stepchildren. The girl(Han Hyo-Joo) takes care of an injured old woman, who turns out to be wealthy and offers to give her company to the girl over the head of her slacker grandson played by Lee Seung-Gi. ***

Another Oh Hae-Young/ Another Miss Oh: A young man gets jilted at the altar. A year later he hears that his ex-fiancee is marrying someone else, and accuses the groom of graft and gets him arrested. However, the bride was someone else with the same name and the groom breaks up with her the day before the wedding without telling her why. Likeable guy, too shrill girl. He sees visions which don't get explained. ***

Squad 38/ Task Force 38: a tax collector gets help from con artists to run scams on tax evaders to get their taxes paid. Starts well, mostly very entertaining, somewhat weak ending. Great bromance with Seo In-Guk as the con man and Ma Dong-Seok as the tax collector. ****

Thumping Spike: short web drama. A pro volleyball player in the middle of a slump becomes a temporary high school coach and helps their team excel. **

Let's Fight Ghost: a college student (with a couple of comic sidekick friends) makes money by ghostbusting. He (Taecyon) comes across a girl ghost (Kim So-Hyun) who makes friends and  helps him. They discover that they can help some of the ghosts solve problems and pass on. A suspicious professor holds the secret of why the boy can see ghosts, and why the girl became a ghost.  Cute; memorable characters; the sidekicks were very popular. *****

W/ W-Two Worlds: A manga artist starts to go crazy when characters from his story come alive. His daughter (Han Hyo-Joo) is sucked into the manga world and falls in love with one of the characters, played by Lee Jong-Suk. Amazingly exciting beginning, but plot holes and general craziness lead to a weak ending. ***

Six Flying Dragons: excellent historical drama about King Taejo becoming the first king of Joseon, and his son Yi Bang-Won who becomes King Taejong. Great writing and acting; 50 episodes, all of which are good - no slow spots. Yoo Ah-In plays Bang-Won, and Byun Jo-Han and Yoon Kyun-Sang play fictional characters with amazing fight scenes. *****

Another Parting: mini drama - an alien is sent to Earth to find out why humans cry. **

Go Ho's Starry Night: mini-drama about five men in one office who like the same girl. **

Jealousy Incarnate: a tangle of people who are jealous of each other: Gong Hyo-Jin plays a weather caster who is jealous of the news reporters. Jo Jung-Suk is a reporter who is jealous of her boyfriend. Her brother is jealous of the guy who likes his niece. His brother has two ex-wives (Lee Mi-Sook and Park Ji-Young) who are jealous of each other. She is indecisive and he is inconsiderate, so they are not really likeable, but the show is really well done and one of the best. *****

Shopping King Louie: watched it for Seo In-Guk. Cute and fluffy but not convincing. He is an amnesiac who spends money like water and falls for a poor cheerful girl who forgives him everything. Nobody in this show seems to be able to think, even the villains are incompetent.  **

The K2: the saving grace of this show is Ji Chang-Wook's fight scenes and the beautiful background music. You can tell there is really no plot from the first few episodes which mainly consist of Yoona running around Spain in her nightgown. She plays the illegitimate child of a Korean politician who is trying to keep her a secret. He is the bodyguard. The most interesting character is the evil stepmother played by Song Yoon-A. **

1% of Something/ 1% of Anything/ Something About 1%: this is a remake and is much better than the earlier one, so be sure you watch the one made in 2016. A kindergarten teacher helps an elderly man who has fallen. He is impressed by her and makes his cold-hearted grandson date her in hopes that her kindness will rub off on him. Fun and cute. ****

The Beauty Inside: a movie. A man wakes up every day looking like a completely different person and has great difficulty having friends or a job. He is played by a lot of different actor and actresses. Very well done. ****

Tree With Deep Roots: a fictionalized story of how King Sejong (played by Han Suk-Kyu) developed hangul, the Korean alphabet. It begins when he is a child (played by a very cute teenage Song Joong-Ki) and his father King Taejong is a tyrant who kills anyone who threatens his position. A boy whose family is killed returns as an adult policeman to solve continuing murders. This drama takes place after the events of Six Flying Dragons, although it was made first. Very good, fun to spot actors in both shows, slow spot 3/4 of the way through. ****

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Han Suk-Kyu plays a doctor who is forced out by a corrupt official, changes his name, and works at a small country hospital. There he becomes a mentor for younger doctors played by Seo Hyun-Jin and Yoo Yeon-Seok (who are way better here than in their previous dramas Oh Hae Young and Warm and Cozy). *****

Goblin/ Guardian the Lonely and Great God: Gong Yoo plays an immortal goblin who helps deserving souls, and was in his previous life a general who was killed by the king. Lee Dong-Wook plays a grim reaper who doesn't remember his previous life. Though at first antagonistic, they become friends and are very cute together helping the goblin's bride (Kim Go-Eun) and his sister (Yoo In-Na). This was great both in atmosphere and in the characters. *****

Shows we are in the middle of watching; Chief Kim and Tomorrow With You. Also 30 episodes into Nirvana in Fire, which is Chinese.

Shows we tried and dropped so then 0 stars: Remember (the hero's super hearing was forgotten after two episodes and the villains kept walking over him); Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team (haphazard plot); Moorim School (they sent kids hiking in the middle of a wolf pack? really? their tests consist of a party?) Good Doctor (couldn't buy that someone with autism could be a doctor or get cured of it); Descendants of the Sun (couldn't take the weekly rescues of the heroine); High End Crush (can't remember anything about this one at all...); Haeundae Lovers (a story about a family of morons who do stupid things); Secret Message (couldn't figure it out at all); Sweet 18 (slow, a married couple lying to each other); Cinderella and Four Knights (aww Jung Il-Woo, you're supposed to be perky and cute, but I can't take six episodes of moping around); One More Happy Ending (too mindless); Mr. Baek (don't like the characters, the story is tanking); One Percent of Anything ( the one from 2003 which is confusing); Dear My Friends (couldn't take a whole episode of old ladies yelling and hitting each other); Legend of the Blue Sea (wanted to like a mermaid story, but just draggy except for the episode with the merman); Queen of Office (actually we watched this one out of focus and can't find it anywhere).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Six Flying Dragons Summary Episodes 46-50

Episode 46

Bang-Won tells Moo Hyul he is going to kill Bang-Seok (crown prince) and Jung Do-Jeon (Sambong), and uses Young-Gyu's funeral as cover for meeting his allies, including Jo Mal Seng and Lady Min's brothers. The big difficulty is that the king has forbidden private armies, and even though they have men outside the capital they can't get them in. Ha Ryon figures out how to smuggle them in under cover of working on the Queen's tomb. Boon-Yi finds the hidden weapons and confronts Bang-Won; he refuses to move them and she keeps his secret.

The Ming Emperor dies and King Taejo gets ready to attack Liaodong. Taejo plans to leave a week before this scheduled day to work on the tomb, but then he falls ill and postpones the departure date.
Jung Do Jeon brings his brother Do Gwang and young nephew Jung Gi-Joon to Granny's cafe for lunch the day before the army is to depart. She gives safety amulets to Bang-Ji and Moo-Hyul who know they will have to fight each other. Boon-Yi asks Sambong if the people really are the foundation of the country. He says the nobles rule with the welfare of the common people at heart. The commoners are too busy working and can't learn to read. She encourages him to find a way.

Granny catches Moo-Hyul moving the weapons and makes him promise to quit working for the prince after the fight. The scariest part of this show is worrying if annoying screechy Granny will let out the secret. Yeon-Hee gives Bang-Ji some armor and he gives her the amulet. Bang-Won leaves his house, collecting men along all the side streets.

Note: The Queen's tomb was being built in the capital city, with different nobles sending men to work on it every day. Yi Seok Boem sided with Bang-Won and brought soldiers in on the day he was scheduled for work. Jung Do-Gwang and Gi-Joon are fictional, but appear in Tree With Deep Roots, the main plot of which is finding a way for the common people to read.

Episode 47

Once Bang-Won has collected his army, he sends Juk-Ryong (Eyeliner Monk) to divert Bang-Ji. Bang-Ji meets Yeon-Hee, we get a little hugs-and-kisses, then she gives him back the amulet and heads home; but Juk-Ryong and his men capture her. When Bang-Ji feels danger looming and runs back to find her, Juk-Ryong sends him on to another village.

Gab Boon overhears Boon-Yi and Granny in the storage shed talking about the attack. She warns Sambong at Officer Nam's house, and they escape to Sungkyunkwan. Bang-won and older brother Bang-Gan capture Nam's house and the military office, and surround the palace. Bang-Won has papers with the names of their prime targets, throwing them into the fire as they are killed. Bang-Gwa, the oldest brother now, spends the evening with “Uncle” Ji Ran to prove he had nothing to do with the coup and has clean hands.

Bang-Ji finds Yeon-Hee in the forest with Jo Mal-Seng and his men, who threaten to kill her if he moves at all. She knows they are preventing him from protecting Sambong, so she falls on the sword herself. The men scatter, and Bang-ji tries to find Sambong, only to run in to Moo-Hyul.

Scholar Woo at Sungkyunkwan finds out that Sambong is there and warns Bang-Won. Officer Nam escapes, but Sambong gives the village elder some papers for his brother, goes out to meet Bang-Won, and is killed. The last view is of the paper with Jung Do-Jeon's name burning.

Historical note: Bang-Gwa actually did not know about the revolt. Jo Mal-Seng was a real officer but did not have anything to do with Yeon-Hee, who is fictional. The Woo family helped Poeun impeach Sambong back in Episode 32; after he regained power, Sambong nearly exterminated that clan. This Scholar Woo was getting revenge. The Joseon annals state that Sambong was found hiding, but that was written by the victors so no one really knows.

Episode 48

We get to see Bang-Ji and Moo-Hul fight, slashing and jumping, eventually stopped by Boon-Yi and Grandma running in with the news that Sambong is dead already. Sa Gwang sees Moo-Hyul mourning and decides she needs to take out Moomyung and whoever owned those hidden weapons.

While the Mins try to talk Jo Joon around, Bang-Gwa tries to pacify Ji Ran. The crown prince Bang-Seok is dragged out and Bang-Won kills him, poor kid. When the king finds out he calls for Bang-Won and nearly kills him, but Ji Ran stops him.

King Taejo abdicates and Bang-Gwa becomes king. He assures Bang-Won he doesn't really want to be, and doesn't have a son from his wife anyway. Officer Nam is chased down and badly injured. He sees Shin-Jeok and tells him to preserve the Hidden Roots group by turning his body in so Bang-Won will trust him.

When Bang-Ji retrieves Sambong's body the village elder meets him and hands over the papers. It is a trap; the elder is killed and Bang-Ji escapes down a cliff. His mother (the Moomyung leader) finds and nurses him, and he asks to work with them to kill Bang-Won as revenge for Sambong.

Historical note: This rebellion, called the First Strife of Princes, was August 26, 1398. Bang-Seok and Bang-Beon were killed separately by assassins when they left the palace later. Nam Eun escaped but turned himself in and ended up being beheaded. King Taejo abdicated September 5.

Episode 49

Bang-Won decides to destroy Moomyung by attacking their base of court servants, merchants, and Buddhism. He allows the tribunal to interrogate (torture) the Banchon people; Moo-Hyul can't stand it and asks to return to his hometown.

Bang-Ji finds that among Sambong's papers is one signed by all Moomyung members, including Shin-Jeok. He approaches Shin-Jeok, gets a draft of Ha Ryun's about expelling Buddhism, and passes it on to his mother. She makes a plan to invite Bang-Won to a meeting in the countryside.

Bang-Won sees Granny begging Moo-Hyul to give it all up and leave, and finally gives permission. Boon-Yi meets him too, and he agrees to release the village people and let them resettle elsewhere. She invites Sa-Gwang to go with them but is turned down. As the villagers are loading onto boats at Mapo port, their remarks make her realize that Sa-Gwang is out to kill Bang-Won and she runs to the meeting site. Moo-Hyul decides he can't leave without taking formal leave and heads for the same place.

Sa-Gwang arrives first and confronts the Moomyung soldiers. Moo-Hyul finds the bodies and rushes on. Boon-Yi gets there in time to stop Bang-Won from being poisoned, but the Moomyung men attack Bang-Won's. Sa-Gwang attacks them in turn. Bang-Ji is momentarily stunned by seeing his sister, but when Sa-Gwang charges his mother, he engages her. Bang-Won escapes with Boon-Yi; Gil Seon-Mi attacks them but is intercepted by Moo-Hyul in a flying leap.

Historical note: Mapo is a district in western Seoul by the Han River. In old days there was a ford there. Buddhism was very corrupt, with a lot of property (donated in order to keep it from taxation), and many temples and rituals taking a big toll on the country.

Episode 50 (Final)

Moo-Hyul and Gil Seon-Mi's fight is pretty impressive but Bang-Ji and Sa-Gwang's is faster and involves more flying. Bang-Won is nearly captured, but Ha Ryun brings reinforcements. Granny's amulet saves Moo-Hyul; he leaves Gil mortally wounded but still able to kill Yooksan when he strikes at Yeon-Hyang (Bang-Ji's mother).

Moo-Hyul breaks into the other fight with another flying leap. Sa-Gwang tells them she is after Moomyung for forcing Prince Wang Yo onto the throne, Yi Seung-gye and Jung Do-Jeon for killing all the Goryeo royal family, and Yi Bang-Won for the hidden weapon storage. She attacks them both and they help each other and finally cut her down.

Moo-Hyul officially resigns and Bang-Ji goes away – apparently not to China with his mother. Boon-Yi takes the villagers to an island. Monk Juk-Ryong bring in the bodies of Gil and Yooksan, claiming to Ha Ryun that Moomyung is defunct now (but really on the orders of Yeon-Hyang). Since merchants are being restricted, he offers to be a leader of government sanctioned peddlers, and admits his real name is Baek Dal-Won.

Bang-Gan revolts, is caught, and spared by Bang-Won. Bang-Gwa abdicates, and Bang-Won is crowned third king of Joseon. He makes the Min brothers drink poison when they plan a coup and try to kill his younger sons.

Bang-Won visits his third son Yi Do and is surprised when he answers questions the way Sambong and Boon-Yi had done. They visit Moo-Hyul's village and get him to come back as Yi Do's bodyguard. Moo-Hyul takes them to Boon-Yi's island; she meets Yi Do and talks to the king; she is worried about pirates so he orders a raid on their stronghold on Tsushima Island.

Boon-Yi, now turning gray, visits the mainland. She sees people from Tree With Deep Roots: a young woman teaching hangul to children, and a couple of guards (Cho Tak and Park Pol) who tell her how easy the new letters are. She realizes that this is the answer to Sambong's problem of helping the commoners communicate and goes to visit his grave, which is unmarked.

The end of the show is a montage showing how Yi Do is similar to all six of the Flying Dragons.
Historical note: In January of 1400 Yi Bang-Gan rebelled and was exiled; Bang-Won never killed any of his full brothers. In February he was named crown prince, and in November Bang-Gwa abdicated and Bang-Won was crowned as King.  The Queen's brothers were eventually executed for trying to take power, two in 1410 and two in 1416. Baek Dal-Won was a real peddler who saved Yi Soung-Gye's life when he was fignting Jurchens in the north and did become head of a peddler's union.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary: Episodes 41-45

Episode 41

Madam Cho and Shin-Jeok are both tortured. She gets him to send out a message through one of the guards who is his friend. It's a ploy by Sambong to find Moomyung; Bang-Ji takes some soldiers and follow the person who picks up the letter. They find a house in the forest, but no one is there. Bang-Ji finds his mother in a nearby cave, however, and she tells him to leave Sambong or he will be fighting her.

Bang-Won asks to be investigated with Madam Cho so he can be cleared. Shin-Jeok figures out that Cho knows he had tricked her, so he strangles her to keep her from telling anyone. Sambong covers it up so it looks like suicide.

The Ming capture Japanese pirates who confess they are Joseon spies, and demand a prince be sent to explain. This would be dangerous, since the Ming have recently killed envoys and a lot of their own people. Sambong offers Bang-Won the choice of a five year exile or going to Ming. He admits Bang-Won is the only one who could convince the Ming Emperor and Bang-Won chooses to go: he will either be killed for his country or come home in glory. He tells Boon-yi to go to Banchon, where she will be safer.

Bang-Won takes Ha Ryun as translator and Moo-Hyul as bodyguard with a caravan of soldiers. They have to pass through Liaodong castle, but it has been closed to Joseon people and they are arrested. An officer in furs comes to call them barbarians and Bang-Won asks, “Do you want to die?” The officer is Zhu Di.

Historical note: Zhu Di was a son of the Ming emperor. He overthrows his nephew, the crown prince, and becomes emperor. Ha Ryun did not go to Ming; the translator was actually Jo Ban, whose lands were taken by Hong In-Bang in Episode 15. 

Episode 42

Zhu Di orders one of Bang-Won's arms cut off so Moo-Hyul breaks free, grabs a spear, and holds it to Zhu-Di's throat. Zhu Di suddenly admits he can speak Korean and calls his men off. But he says Moo-Hyul has to die for threatening him, and his guards have to die for not protecting him. Bang-Won negotiates an arena fight instead. Moo-Hyul wins, and when Zhu Di grants him a request, he asks that the guards not be killed. They will be more loyal after this.

Bang-Won tries to negotiate passage through Liaodong, but gets nowhere. That night there is a second meeting and Bang-Won, realizing that a big table map of Ming indicates that Zhu Di is planning a takeover, connects with him over the idea that they were both passed over as heir. He gets clearance to go if he leaves Moo-Hyul with Zhu-Di

While Bang-Won is gone, Moo-Hyul practices and becomes better at fighting, the poor ex-king gets ex-ecuted, the capital moves to Seoul, and Boon-Yi's people settle in at Banchon and catch a spy from Moomyung. One of the dead king's relatives is there under another name with Sa-Gwang and two of the king's children.

Sambong has a secret meeting in the forest which Boon-Yi overhears. He is starting a clandestine group of scholars. The country is a tree and the king is a flower on the tree. This group is Hidden Root and it is to guide the king and help the people.

Historical note: In 1394 the deposed king was killed as well as many of his clan. Bang-Won went to Ming in June and returned in November. In October the capital was moved to Seoul.

Episode 43

  We resume with Sambong speaking several times to his secret followers. Bang-Won returns from Ming and is allowed to take Moo-Hyul home with him. Sambong tells Yeon-Hee she should return to private life, knowing Bang-Ji likes her.

Sambong plans to unify all the private armies into a national army. He has a ceremony which no one attends, so he tortures the officers. Meanwhile, Da-Kyung has hidden all their soldiers' weapons in a basement storeroom in Banchon. The dead king's children find an arrowhead there, and Sa-Gwang sees it.

Even though Bang-Won was a success in Ming and they granted travel permission, the nobles are angry because Ming thought he was the crown prince. Everyone else who went to Ming is tortured. These people are seriously heartless. The queen asks the king to protect the crown prince because she fears Bang-Won, but then Bang-Won makes a big scene and begs his little brother for forgiveness.
Ming claims that a recent letter from Joseon has insulted them and wants Sambong and the author handed over.

Historical note: The Ming did indeed call Bang-Won the crown prince but his prestige had grown so much that no one got angry about it. Lady Min did hide weapons, but no one knows where. The Ming Emperor demanded Jung Do-Jeon be handed over in June of 1396. The letter must have referred to his early life as a bandit and a monk, which would have infuriated him.

Episode 44

  The king decides against sending Sambong to Ming because he has been planning to invade Liaodong and they might not take it well. Sambong resigns all his offices and leaves town.
Jo Mal-Saeng, the scholar who helped Bang-Won when his father was injured, enters Sungkyunkwan. A follower of Lee Saek, Kwon Geun, decides to switch sides and help, and so does Bang-Won's friend from school days, Shin-Jeok. The queen, very ill, tries before she dies to get Bang-Won to promise to protect the crown prince but he refuses.

Moo-Hyul catches Sa-Gwang looking around a storage shed belonging to his grandmother. It's the place where the children found the arrowhead, but she says nothing. A young girl overhears Boon-Yi and Bang-Won talking and reports to Sambong's brother, Jung Do-Gwang.

The king pretends to visit Biguk temple but secretly meets Sambong in the old parliament building. They plan the invasion; since the Ming Emperor is dying and there might be a civil war, this is their best chance. Yoon-Hee and Bang-Ji seem the friendliest we have ever seen them. Bang-Won looks for his father but meets Moomyung instead (when you hear owls you know it's them) and they tell him about the Emperor dying. He knows that Zhu Di will invade Ming.

Historical note: In January of 1395 Young-Gyu died of an illness, but he is still alive in the drama. The queen died in August of 1396. Jung Do-Gwang is fictional but he and the girl (as town leader) appear in Tree with Deep Roots.

 Episode 45

We begin with Sambong demanding the king start a war and Yeon-Hyang demanding Bang-Won prevent it. On the way back to Seoul, Sambong advises Yoon-Hee and Bang-Ji to get married, and we see Bang-Ji holding her arm and helping her walk because of her hurt ankle.

The king announces to the court that Ming has killed their envoys. This means war, so they will attack Liaodong. Ha Ryun and his aide Lee Seok-Beon are made commanders in two outlying provinces; they decide to raise soldiers for when the king abolishes private troops.

Bang-Won takes gifts to Sambong and Bang-Seok, the crown prince. This is what he had done with the three bullies he had killed in school. And then no one goes to the military training. The king demands the princes and officers show up for pardons, and while this is going on the private soldiers are rounded up and their weapons confiscated.

Young-Gyu goes to the storage shed and a small boy follows him and sees the weapons. It's the dead king's child, and just as Young-Gyu decides he can't kill a child, Sa-Gwang arrives and attacks. Young-Gyu's wild slash accidentally hits the boy fatally so Sa-Gwang kills him and takes the child away. Bang-Won is so distraught that Young-Gyu is dead that he vows to kill Sambong and Bang-Seok.

Historical note: The Ming Emperor killed Joseon envoys in1396.  The scene with Young-Gyu and Sa-Gwang is entirely fictional; this is just a more dramatic way for him to die.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 36-40

Episode 36 

When it is dark Bang-Won leaves the house with Bang-Ji, Young-Gwa, and some red shirts. I mean guys with red headbands. Moo-Hyul finds out that they are gone, and knowing they will meet up with Cheok Sa-Gwang, chases after them.

Sa-Gwang feels a disturbance in the Force and sends Poeun on to the palace and waits. When Bang-Ji arrives she kills the red shirts right away and then tries to dissuade him. After a first skirmish she tells him she can't hold back because he's too strong, and they wound each other before Moo-Hyul arrives. He sees that she is preparing the strike she used to slice the palanquin and yells at Bang-Ji to avoid the blow. Then it is two against one until Moo-Hyul, dropping his sword, rushes her and they go over a cliff together.

Poeun and his servant proceed unmolested until they reach Seonjuk bridge, where Bang-Won is waiting. He tries to talk Poeun around and then Young-Gyu comes up with the mace and hits Poeun several times. Bang-Won has Sambong let out of jail and tells him Poeun is dead. The General is furious until Sambong convinces him they can only go forward and they have to accuse Poeun as a traitor.

 Moo-Hyul comes to at the foot of the cliff and can't bring himself to kill Sa-Gwang. When she wakes up he is gone but has bandaged her wounds. When he returns later to check on her she comes from behind with a sword to his neck and asks what happened?

Historical note: The killing of Poeun took place in April in 1392, in the daytime. Bang-Won wasn't there at all; he sent Young-Gyu with some men to do it. Poeun was on a horse, Young-Gyu tried to hit him and then hit the horse. Poeun fell off and ran away, but the other men chased him down and actually killed him in the city street.

Episode 37

Bang-Won challanges Sambong that there was never a place for him in the new country. He admits there wasn't until Bang-Won killed Poeun. We revisit Sa-Gwang with her sword to Moo-Hyul's neck, where he tells her that Poeun is dead and the king is still safe and will likely be dethroned. Sambong has Poeun declared a traitor and makes sure the General isn't blamed for his death. Yeon-Hyang tries to get Sambong to change his mind about land reform and gets nowhere.

Then King Gongyang is escorted out of town and General Yi and his wife Lady Kang are crowned as King Taejo and Queen Sindeok. The new king excitedly pushes through the first civil service exams only to be deflated when no one comes. Scholars keep disappearing and are finally traced to a village in the nearby mountains where they are hiding. Prince Bang-Won offers to persuade them to return, but after a short interchange he has the village set on fire.

Historical note: King Taejo was crowned in July 1392. No one knows if this village was real or not. It was a folk tale until it was written down about 350 years after it was supposed to have happened. However King Taejo is supposed to have ordered the fire.

Episode 38

Bang-Won orders his archers to fire the village. Some scholars remain and die in the fire, but the rest run out and are arrested and left in jail without food for three days. When they are fed and let out they quietly go home and accept government jobs. One of them is Hwang Hui, who vows revenge.

King Taejo's oldest son, Bang-Woo, refuses to be crown prince. Jo Joon advises that Bang-Won be chosen instead because he has contributed so much. Sambong counters that he is the one son they should not choose because of his having killed Poeun.

The queen takes her youngest son, Bang-Seok, to have his fortune told by a monk and is told he has a great future only if he becomes king. The Kunoichi, now led by Yoon-Hee, catch one of Boon-Yi's villagers following the queen and beat him up. She complains and is told to send them all home.

Yeon-Hyang has a meeting of Moomyung leaders attended by the monk who did the fortune-telling. She later meets with Bang-Won to sponsor the youngest son as crown prince, which will create problems and then Bang-Won can step in as the obvious best choice.

Historical note: Hwang Hui was a very respected prime minister and shows up later in Tree With Deep Roots. Yi Bang-Woo went to live in a mountain hermitage and died of an illness in 1393.

Episode 39

Sambong becomes prime minister and head of the army. Taejo names Bang-Seok as crown prince and publishes a list of people who contributed to founding the new nation. None of the older princes are on the list, but Moo-Hyul and Young-Gyu are promoted.

Yeon-Hyang tells Bang-Won that Moomyung began during Shilla times with a merchant network and he agrees to work with them. She decides to reactivate a group called Hwado (rice-sword) and sends Yooksan to Kanggye on the north border to meet them.

Sa-Gwang and the deposed king enjoy living in retirement, being friendly with the guards.

Sambong poses as a merchant and goes to the northern border to talk to Jurchen chiefs. He wants them to settle in Liaodong as allies when Joseon takes it back from Ming.  Da-Kyung has Boon-Yi send someone to follow him and report. Waiting for one of the merchants, Sambong sees a red stamp and finds the seal it's from.  Bang-Ji cuts it in half; they stamp the two parts together and it becomes the red stamp of Moomyung. The merchant who comes in is Yuksan.

Historical note: The older princes were actually left off the contributor's list; Bang-Won added them when he became king. Many Jurchens were ethnic Koreans who had moved there when they lost their land or during wars. Liaodong had once belonged to Goryeo and they kept trying to get it back.

Episode 40

 Sambong and Yuksan wonder how much the other knows. Sambong sends a report via Kunoichi but the teenager Boon-Yi sent filches it and hands it off to his companion. He is killed and the companion takes the body and the report home. Madam Cho realizes the seal has been used and she and Yuksan evacuate before they can be caught.

Boon-Yi calls Bang-Won and Sambong together to get them to reconcile, and when it fails, offers to sell the report. Sambong offers to let her people live in Banchan village and serve Sungkyunkwan, so she gives him the report. Bang-Won's school friend who has been working for Sambong all this time asks to work for him instead, but he is suspicious he is a spy.

Madam Cho receives a letter from Bang-Won and rushes to his house, but it wasn't from him; it was a forgery. Before she can leave Sambong arrives and finds them together, proving that Bang-Won is working with Moomyung. The king arrives and orders them arrested.

Historical note: Bang-Won was never arrested. Banchan was a village that provided food, books, and other services to Sungkyunkwan. It was independent and neither police nor army were allowed in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 31-35

Episode 31

Sambong explains to Poeun that in the new country the royal family will be figureheads and actual power will belong to the prime minister, who will be Poeun. Bang-Won reports that they captured Madam Cho, but not what he overheard. Meantime Gil Sun-Mi asks if Yooksan should report being tricked by Bang-Won, indicating that Yooksan isn't the top boss.

Poeun decides to remain loyal to Goryeo and tells the king they need the land reform so they can get taxes, and they have to let Lee Saek get impeached and split up General Yi and Sambong. The king is so impressed that he has Sa-Gwang guard Poeun.

Bang-Won lets Madam Cho go, saying that Yeon-Hyang's children are looking for her and that he will work with Moomyung if they release her. He tells Sambong that he is going to pretend to go along with Moomyung. Gil Sun-Mi finds Cho and  admits he had lied that Yeon-Hyang's children were dead.

Bang-Won does his hair into a topknot for the first time, moves into his own house, and starts his own private army - to be trained Master Hong. He meets Ha Ryun, who is being exiled along with Lee Saek, to say he will wait for him to return. Da-Kyung tells Boon-Yi that her villager spies will be paid by the Min family and to take orders from Bang-Won, not Sambong. Then Bang-Won lures Boon-Yi into a snowball fight and tells her play is over now.

Historical note: Bang-Won moved into a house owned by his father, not by his father-in-law. Men usually began wearing their hair in a topknot when they married.

Chapter 32

Bang-Won tells Boon-Yi that he asked Moomyung about her mother. Then he asks her to say his name one more time and to speak formally after that, and kisses her just once.

The lady with the hood takes him to a meeting where he figures out she is the leader. They tell him Moomyung started 700 years before. He asks if they know Yeon-Hyang and repeats that her children are looking for her. He can tell this is a shock.

When Gil Sun-Mi arrives later the leader, who is Yeon-Hyang herself, takes him to task. He says he lied because there was infighting in Moomyung and she united them, and claims that she deserted them first and went back to her home town.

General Yi complains about being able to order the execution of the king  but can't manage the land measurement. The nobles as well as Moomyung are interfering. Eyeliner Monk finds out that King Gongyang's messenger is the woman servant and they waylay her next time she goes out. Moo-Hyul happens along and stops them, but when he leaves they attack again and she beats them with the flat of a sword. Yooksan realizes then that she is Cheok Sa-Gwang.

The nobles mourning for General Choi are distracted by Sambong piling up all the land records in the market and setting fire to it. They burn for several days.

Historical note: General Choi was beheaded in 1388 and Kings U and Chang were forced to take poison in 1389. The land registers were burned in September 1390.

Chapter 33

Sambong is arrested for burning the tax records, but he is happy because it will force the land reform. Yeon-Hyang shows up to talk to Boon-Yi and tell her that she has her own life and not to look for her any more.

Da-Kyung reminds Bang-Won that she is the only person really on his side and asks him why he does nothing. He tells her about the plan for the king to have no power, and that he has been pretending to hunt Moomyung, paying Biguk temple for info, and building his own forces.

Back out of jail, Sambong now attacks Buddhist temples, which have lots of slaves and own a third of the land in Goryeo because nobles donate land to them to evade the law. General Yi, being a Buddhist, objects. No sooner has Sambong talked the General around then Bang-Woo gets in a fight with someone trying to curry favor for when he becomes crown prince. He tells his father that their family has had enough traitors, and it will stop with him. He will always be loyal.

Poeun decides he has to stop Sambong, so he sends someone to Sambong's home town. They come back with proof that Sambong's great-grandmother had been a slave, and he has deceived everyone as to the class he belongs to. The guards take him away in disgrace, pretty similar to the beginning of the episode.

Historical note: Sambong was impeached for this reason in September 1391, exiled, and his sons were declared commoners.

Chapter 34

Boon-Yi tells her brother and Yoon-Hee about seeing her mother, and that she deserted them to be in Moomyung. Bang-Ji doesn't want to accept it.

Poeun talks the king into exiling Sambong and they recall Lee Saek and Ha Ryun. Sambong is sent away in a closed palanquin so his followers can't find him. When General Yi can't get Poeun to rescind the order he resigns. The king disallows it and the General leaves town to go hunting.

 Yeon-Hyang decides to support Poeun and sends Gil Sun-Mi to kill the General. But someone else's arrow spooks the general's horse and he is thrown and hurt badly. Poeun has Officer Nam and Jo Joon arrested, and talks the king into executions.

 Bang-Won sends Bang-ji to be with Sambong and goes to find his father. When Poeun's men arrive he sends out two palanquins as red herrings and takes his father away on a cart. The men fight Ji Ran  for one palanquin and Sa-Gwang attacks the other. She amazes Moo-Hyul by slicing hers in half with two swords. They are both empty.

Historical note: Yi Seong-Gye was badly injured by a fall from a horse in March 1392 when hunting. His followers were exiled and Bang-Won sneaked him back home in the middle of the night.

Chapter 35

Pulling his father on the cart, Bang-Won comes across Jo Mal-Saeng, a rural scholar who helps them. They return to town dressed in white as a funeral procession with the General in the coffin.

Bang-Ji tries to talk Sambong into escaping but he refuses. He and the other exiles are sent back to Gaegyong. Moo-Hyul sees Sa-Gwang escorting Poeun and follows. She turns back to talk to him and they make a connection over not liking to kill but being loyal to friends.

Bang-Won keeps the doctor in the house and sends talkative Granny to buy medicine and pretend the General isn't badly hurt. Moomyung finds the doctor who treated the General when he first fell off the horse and discovers the seriousness of the injuries.

Poeun visits the General, who tries to talk him around around; Goryeo didn't protect the people from pirates or even the greedy nobles. Unmoved, Poeun leaves and orders the executions. Bang-Won decides the only way out is to kill Poeun. When night falls Young-Gyu brings a mace and they leaves the house with Bang-Ji and a small group of men. Poeun is escorted only by Sa-Gwang and one servant.

Historical note: Yi Seon-Gye and Jung Mong-Joo (Poeun) met in 1364 when the General was fighting the Jurchens and had been friends for 28 years. Poeun was a diplomat who could keep foreigners from invading. He was known for using his own money to pay Japanese pirates to let captives go free.