I’m newly hooked on the Korean TV drama series Gu Family Book!
For those of you who haven’t watched any Korean dramas, they are in actual Korean, available with English subtitles. One of the things I have come to appreciate about Korean dramas is their level of expression. In theater (i.e. live plays and shows, with actors on-stage), actors are often over-expressive compared to TV shows and movies, in an effort to engage their audience and make them feel like participants in the show. Korean dramas carry this over-expressive element, even though they are filmed. Sadly, some viewers may view this as bad acting (particularly those of us who are more accustomed to Hollywood acting).
For those of you who are anime fans, in some ways Gu Family Book is reminiscent of the manga/anime Naruto, but also of Inuyasha. The storyline follows a boy who is half human and half nine-tailed fox. The first two episodes of Gu Family Book follow the boy’s parents: the human daughter of a framed Korean lord, and the thousand-year-old nine-tailed fox forest guardian. The rest of the series (so far, and I’m on episode 10 out of 24) follows their son, Choe Kangchi, who was sent down the river like Moses (aka baby in a basket) and taken in by a struggling merchant. Kangchi grew up with no knowledge of his origins, other than being found on the river, so when he comes into his power, it’s a big surprise–and one his adopted family doesn’t know or understand.
Part of what makes Gu Family Book so interesting, is that you and the monk watch history repeat itself…only to question whether it will actually turn out exactly the same this time around. Another interesting thing is that Gu Family Book is very unlike any of the other Korean dramas I have watched, and a friend of mine who recommended it said the same thing. It’s not as lighthearted. There is plenty to laugh at past the first couple episodes. But there are also depressing themes, like watching the fall of a wealthy house twice over–the father framed and murdered as a traitor, the older brother tortured, the beautiful daughter sold to a courtesan house (which is like a cross between a geisha house and a brothel), and the rest of the household sold into slavery.
So if you’re one for historic cultural legends, two-sided characters (with one side being a beast nature), and female characters that refuse to go quietly into the night, I recommend giving Gu Family Book a try.
I admit, Kangchi’s father Wol-Ryung is my favorite; he wins the charming award when he’s normal, and the sexy award when he goes dark. Here’s some video clips of his romance.