So I finally started to hop aboard the Korean wave train and began watching Korean dramas with English subtitles. But see, the problem with Korean TV episodes which are downloaded off from the internet is that the English subs could be quite atrocious. You will be able to grasp the meaning of their conversation though, but sometimes the thought is incomplete or lost in translation. For instance, I remember reading an English sub sample like this, "She entered the room suddenly so I become..." Huh? Sometimes they would have subs in really highfalutin English, with words like "sagacious, injunction, parturient, ambuscade, compeer, etc" which I think you would hardly ever use in a normal everyday conversation. Now, I'm not sure if those are the official English subs in the original DVDs but unless I could find a way to save money to be able to purchase them, I would have to contend myself with the English subs from the net. So armed with my good old Webster dictionary (just in case I encounter those highfalutin English words again), I started watching the highly-praised Korean costume drama, Queen Seon Deok (QSD).
I must say that I'm certainly envious of the Koreans because they could produce epic shows such as this. I should first mention the score because I think one of the most crucial elements in movie making is the music's ability to effectively render the film's atmosphere and the character's emotions in the absence of dialogue and QSD does not fail on this. The score is indeed haunting and beautiful.
Like an epic movie, QSD's sets are extravagant and grandiose, the sceneries are breath-taking, the Asian-style swordfights are fast-paced, and the colorful period costumes are a visual feast in the eyes. The first episodes depict QSD's childhood with some parts seeming to drag on forever. I don't know why they had to devote 10(?) episodes (I'm not sure of the actual count, it may be 11 or 12) in order to show QSD's birth and childhood. Sure, I know the writers need to show how Deokman (that's QSD's childhood name) grows up to be an intelligent, brave, and street-smart kid in spite of being thrown out of the kingdom and living a desert nomad's life, but they could certainly do that in five (or seven tops) episodes!! There's also lots of talks and bicker regarding palace politics, intrigue, and sex (hinted very subtly) that would give the Romans a run for their money with everyone sitting down, plotting nefarious conspiracies, having tea, and giving long meaningful glances at each other. Apparently, the King and the all-powerful Mishil, (this show's female Darth Vader) hate each other's guts and each one wants the other one dead but no one's really doing anything. Aw c'mon people, start with the martial arts already!!
Thankfully, after those 10 episodes, the pace finally picks up and becomes very exciting as the kingdom goes to war and it so happens that Deokman gets enlisted in the royal army while pretending to be a boy. See, one of the recurring themes in most Korean dramas is "gender bender" (think Coffee Prince, You're Beautiful, etc.). Under the command of Lord Kim Yushin (love this guy!), Deokman and the rest of her ragtag platoon trains for the war with hilarious comical effects. Think Mulan without the singing. But things eventually get serious as the war becomes a nightmare, with lots of bloodbath, gore, and turning on the waterworks. On these battle scenes, Deokman gets to show her exceptional leadership skills and "Aja-aja! Fighting!!" side which earns her the respect of Lord Yushin, her comrades, and heck, everyone else!! You go girl!! After the war, everyone in the palace goes again to sitting, plotting, and staring mode.
I stopped watching at episode 19 because my head began to hurt from watching for three consecutive nights. I'll probably write the second part of this review next week but what basically happens was that after the war, Deokman eventually discovers her royal lineage, one of her comrades soon finds out that she is a girl, the Queen finally gets to meet her, Mishil begins to get suspicious and plots her evil Evil EVIL schemes, and we get to see lots and lots of Deokman-Yushin moments!!! Yay!!
I love the chemistry between Lee Yo-Won (Deokman) and Uhm Tae Woong (Yushin). Every time they banter, my television screen lightens up. It's obvious that these two have feelings for each other. :) Apparently, Yushin already knows beforehand about Deokman's gender-bender thing. He chanced upon her while she was taking a bath during her training days (ahahaha!). That would certainly explain his protective attitude towards her. When asked why he did not reveal Deokman's real identity, he answers, "Because I don't want to part with her." Ahhhh moments (faints)!! :)