The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Review: Chuno [Slave Hunter]

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THE SHORT VERDICT:

Grand. Sweeping. Lush. And jaw-droppingly magnificent.

In every way, from every aspect, Chuno is a literal feast for the senses, and a sumptuous one at that.

From the glorious cinematography, to the pulsing, evocative OST, to the (mostly) well-drawn, (mostly) well-acted characters and their stories, Chuno is a complete experience; one that engulfs you and takes over your very faculties.

Yes, it’s not perfect by any means. But boy, does it have a lot to offer.

Best consumed in large, generous, HD servings. Sink in and let this sexy beast blow you away. I mean the show, of course. Mostly. *cough*

Chuno OST – 추노

THE LONG VERDICT:

This is sorta the part where I wish I could just flail my arms about and say, “Chuno is just flat-out ah-ma-zing. See it to believe it. Just.. watch it! You’ll see.”

But, I realize that won’t do.

To be honest, it took a whole lot of convincing before I first set foot on the Chuno train, 2 years ago.

When Chuno first came out in 2010, it aired here on KBS World, and my mum watched it on our not-very-good TV. When I walked by, I caught glimpses of dusty surroundings populated by straggly-looking people and I was not at all tempted to join her. That just did not look like my kind of drama.

Sometime in 2012, I chanced on Dnoella’s wonderful, glowing (mostly non-spoilery) review, and I was intrigued. Plus, I’d seen Jang Hyuk in Tree With Deep Roots by this time, and had been duly impressed. I wanted to see more of his work, and Chuno sounded like just the ticket.

Diving in for my first watch of Chuno (in HD! There is simply No. Other. Way. to watch Chuno but in HD. Trust me, ok?), I was completely blown away. But I hated – like, really, really hated – the ending.

Fast forward to 2013, when I wrote my Jang Hyuk k-love confession, and did my best to persuade, wheedle and coerce everyone into checking out Jang Hyuk in Chuno. Ha. In the end, all that Jang Hyuk-Chuno talk made me crave an actual re-watch. So I did it. I joined my friend Michele on her first watch. And lo and behold, I fell for Chuno all over again. Maybe even more this time, coz this time, I even appreciate the ending. (Woah, is that even possible, you might ask? Stay tuned to find out!)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The cinematography in Chuno is nothing short of spectacular.

Thanks to that amazing Red One camera, thoughtful framing, excellent editing, and a PD with a lovingly detailed eye for beauty, everything and everyone looks stunningly gorgeous.

The color palette is intense, and combined with every frame’s crisp, clean, cinematic quality, we are immediately and completely immersed in a world that is so beautiful that it feels surreal.

The effect is utterly and thoroughly spell-binding.

Just take a look at these:

The panoramic splendor is pretty breathtaking, isn’t it?

Add to that the very deliberate use of slow-motion, and the grandeur just gets magnified.

Here, we see how slow-motion is used to bring out the beauty in movement; in this case, of water:

Slow-motion is also artfully combined with the use of fast-motion, particularly in fight scenes.

The slow-motion allows us to revel in the fluidity of the movement and the impressiveness of the form, and then towards the end of the motion, the frames speed up to magnify the moment of impact. It’s quite stunning to behold.

Here’s a peek:

It’s mesmerizing. Honestly, it gives new meaning to the phrase “poetry in motion.”

Sure, the cinematography does lean a little indulgent – ok, sometimes maybe a lot indulgent – with it seeming to sometimes revel in its own beauty to an excess. It’s all so captivatingly, painfully beautiful, though, that I am more than happy to simply indulge together with the show’s makers.

One thing to keep in mind, is that the cinematography is stylized, and quite majorly so. And sometimes, this translates into aesthetic choices which don’t make complete sense. For example, our female lead character Eonnyeon (Lee Da Hae) remains completely clean throughout the show, despite spending much of the time in dusty, dirty surroundings.

Certainly, I’m sure PD Kwak was well aware that no human being could possibly keep that clean while traversing such dusty locales without opportunities to change or wash. But I saw it as a stylistic choice, to bring out the ethereal nature of the character’s beauty. Once you accept these aesthetic choices as simply a stylistic statement, they become much easier to accept.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In episode 6, Eonnyeon’s garments get splattered with blood from being in close proximity to a fight, and her companion, Song Tae Ha (Oh Ji Ho) uses charcoal to draw branches between the blood splatters, turning her garment into a stylish, pretty dress.

Logically, this is a huge stretch, coz really, blood doesn’t look that pretty, and neither is it that color on fabric. Plus, the blood splatters are distributed oh-so-conveniently such that they form pretty blossoms, not only at the base of her hanbok, but down her right sleeve too. 

Ridiculous? Well, put that way, it’s kinda hard to say it isn’t. I’d venture to say, though, that if one chooses to nitpick at these little details, that it just mars the enjoyment of the artistry employed in the design of this world.

I’d say the easier, more comforting choice, is to accept it as part of the fantasy built into the creative blueprint of the show.

[END SPOILER]

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

The music in Chuno is beautifully scored and masterfully employed.

In the intense stretches of the show, pulsing, rhythmic themes swell to dizzying crescendos to magnify the potency of the moment. And in the quieter scenes, evocative instrumentals give poignant voice to the unspoken pathos of our characters.

It is gorgeously absorbing and completely immersive. And the music never feels muted, nor does it ever feel intrusive. It is a bona fide presence in the show, on equal footing with the outstanding cinematography.

The music and the cinematography fuse together as one powerful force, to entirely engulf you and take over your senses.

I’ll be sharing a number of the OST tracks in this review, but I will say that there is nothing quite like experiencing the OST while watching the show.

CHARACTERS

Over and above the excellent music and cinematography, it is the characters that make Chuno an absorbing watch. There are so many characters, though, that it is impossible to touch on them all in this review.

Besides our major characters, I will highlight several secondary characters that left a deep impression on me.

Jang Hyuk as Lee Dae Gil

Hands-down, Jang Hyuk’s Dae Gil is the heart of the show. And boy, does that heart throb well, hur hur. Pun totally and unabashedly intended.

Those of you who have read my Jang Hyuk k-love confession post know that I was completely mesmerized by this man onscreen during my Chuno watch.

Jang Hyuk makes Dae Gil completely believable as the Badass With Heart. In fact, Jang Hyuk becomes Dae Gil, so much so that I am never tempted to think that this is Jang Hyuk in character. Instead, I am always fully on board that this is Dae Gil. And what a wonderfully layered and textured character he is.

Dae Gil is macho, swaggery, smirky, and possesses a piercing, unrelenting panther-gaze that seems to completely see through people. Not only that, he’s a fabulously skilled fighter (thanks to Jang Hyuk’s super authentic Amazing Fight Skillz) and he fights with ease and flourish, taking down his opponents with laid-back, effortless, streetwise finesse.

One of the things I really enjoy about Dae Gil is how unhurried he is, even when chasing someone. Even the way he stands is languid. Or just the way he breathes. Dae Gil often doesn’t say much, so his eyes, expression and body language say it for him. And when he does speak, it’s in a slow, often sardonic drawl.

To add to the sexy, Dae Gil’s also smart. Not only extremely street-smart, but highly educated too, since he is of noble birth.

Put it all together, and Dae Gil is one potently sexy package that Jang Hyuk brings to life with an impressive amount of nuance.

Over the course of the show, Dae Gil encounters all manner of challenges, obstacles and heartache, charting a journey of realization and – dare I say it? – growth as well.

Before we move into spoilers, let me just share a couple of screenshots with ya.

Exhibit A: Dae Gil’s Piercing Panther Gaze

Exhibits B through F: Dae Gil’s Fantastic Fighting Form:

Pretty darn awesome. Especially when you realize that being this shirtless, it’s quite impossible to use a body double. Super Authentic Amazing Fight Skillz FTW! 😉

And as a fangirl aside: Swooonn~~ All that muscle and sinew, shown off to such glorious, delicious perfection. Thank you, wardrobe people. I owe you. We all owe you.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There is a scene in Episode 10 where I am completely blown away by Jang Hyuk’s nuanced delivery.

Dae Gil is walking with Seolhwa (Kim Ha Eun) and he is too lost in his own thoughts to pay any attention to her prattling. As he walks, he sees a vision of Eonnyeon before him.

What amazes me about this scene is how Dae Gil’s eyes change throughout those few short moments. His irises literally change in size as his gaze goes from empty, to focused, and then to empty again.

It’s going to take quite a few screenshots to walk us through it, but it’s worth seeing the transformation.

This is where we start, where Dae Gil’s gaze is completely dazed and stoned:

And then, as he spies the vision of Eonnyeon before him, his eyes shift into focus in degrees:

He stares at her, stunned with amazed wonder. And then as the vision begins to turn away from him, tears well up in his eyes:

As the vision begins to walk away from him, Dae Gil reaches for her, tears falling, his eyes straining to see her, fearful that she will disappear:

The vision gone, Dae Gil’s gaze goes vacant once again, this time defeated and deflated:

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Respect.

Together with Jang Hyuk’s full-on delivery, I really appreciated Dae Gil as a character.

On the surface, he’s steely and unflinching, hunting down slaves in a precise, analytical manner, paying no heed to their cries for mercy. Yet, when the transaction has been completed and he’s been paid, Dae Gil stealthily frees the same slaves he’d captured, and gives them money, directing them to Mt Worak to start a new life.

Dae Gil’s compassion also shows in episode 7, where he demonstrates tolerance and empathy for Seolhwa, who’s squandered all their money, thinking that Dae Gil and the boys had abandoned her. Instead of reprimanding her, Dae Gil carries the drunk Seolhwa on his back, without a word.

And despite all his posturing with Cheon Ji Ho (Song Dong Il), Dae Gil’s fondness for him totally shows in episode 18, when Dae Gil cries over Cheon Ji Ho’s body.

That’s why he’s a Badass With Heart.

On a deeper level, I really appreciated Dae Gil’s journey of growth and realization through the course of the drama.

As a young nobleman, we learn that Dae Gil had dreamed of changing the world, so that he could live with Eonnyeon, the woman he loved. When circumstances separated him from Eonnyeon, he put that dream aside, replacing it with the hope of finding her. Through most of the first half of the show, Dae Gil operates on the hope of finding Eonnyeon again, and approaches every slave hunt fueled with that dogged, determined hope.

Once he realizes that Eonnyeon has married Tae Ha, though, Dae Gil is like a dead man walking through most of the second half. Gone is the hope from his eyes. Only a deadness colors the cynicism where before at least there had been shades of hope. To add to it all, Dae Gil has to also contend with the “loss” of the only family that he has left: General Choi (Han Jung Soo) and Wang Son (Kim Ji Suk).

Dae Gil deflates for a time, spouting cynical words at every turn, but eventually, he returns full circle to his original dream of changing the world. Except this time, he goes one level higher and wages his very life on it. (More on that later)

Superficial Asides

As a superficial aside, I was rather impressed to realize that the flashback scenes of Dae Gil show him fuller in the face, without the goatee, and much fairer in complexion than present-day Dae Gil. I thought that attention to detail was really admirable.

I know makeup and styling does a lot, but that can’t be all simulated, right? It made me wonder whether they deliberately shot these flashback scenes earlier, so that Jang Hyuk had time to go lean and grow the goatee for current-day scenes. Mad props indeed.

I was also rather tickled to realize that in the later episodes, the way Dae Gil is styled reminds me of Jack Sparrow, ha.

[END SPOILER]

Oh Ji Ho as Song Tae Ha

Most viewers of Chuno get firmly on board either the Dae Gil ship or the Tae Ha one, and when you’re on one ship, you care a lot less about the other one. Um. No prizes for guessing that I’m firmly on the Dae Gil ship. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants. Heh.

Oh Ji Ho as an actor has never left a very deep impression on me. I’ve seen him in Get Karl, Oh Soo Jung and Queen of Housewives, and in both shows, I thought he was nice to look at, but his delivery wasn’t anything to shout about.

I will say, though, that Oh Ji Ho as Song Tae Ha is literally the best that I’ve seen from him, to date. Granted, his sageuk speech is reportedly really poor in Chuno, but it didn’t bother me too much because to my unschooled ears, he only sounded somewhat off, instead of majorly off.

To his credit, Oh Ji Ho delivers some great scenes in Chuno, and he clearly had to dig pretty deep to do it. Yes, he does appear rather wooden at times, but the woodenness is in line with his character’s straight-laced personality, so it works.

As a character, Tae Ha stays pretty square to the very end. But there is definitely a measure of growth, in that his deeply ingrained traditionalist views do get challenged and shaped along the way.

[SPOILER ALERT]

One of the scenes where I thought Oh Ji Ho did admirably well is in episode 4, where we see Tae Ha in flashback.

It’s during the Manchu war, and he returns to his home to find that his wife’s been killed by Qing attackers. He discovers that his infant son is still alive, and cradling the baby, he fights off invader after invader.

After he’s finally taken down the last attacker, he peels away the baby’s swaddling clothes, only to find that the child is dead.

In a matter of moments, Tae Ha’s expression morphs from relief,

to shock,

to disbelief,

to realization,

to grief,

to remorse,

to deep, utter anguish.

It’s an arresting scene, and Oh Ji Ho’s deep-reaching delivery brought tears to my eyes.  Well-done indeed.

Another scene where I also sat up and took notice of Oh Ji Ho’s acting chops is when Tae Ha is in the torture chamber in episode 17.

Before the torture commences, he speaks with an air of fierce resolve:

And then, he valiantly bears with the searing pain as the red-hot iron meets his flesh:

And finally, he roars and gasps in pain:

Chills. And, shudder. He made the torture feel all too real.

This torture chamber scene also shows Tae Ha’s by-the-book, straight-laced character. While nearby, streetsmart Dae Gil feigns unconsciousness in order to bide his time, Tae Ha practically goads Commander Hwang (Lee Jong Hyuk) to put the hot iron on him.

Tae Ha’s growth as a character is relatively slow over the course of the show, but it rings true, because that is how deeply ingrained Tae Ha’s traditionalist views are.

Tellingly, Tae Ha struggles for a long time, over many episodes, when he realizes that his wife Hye Won was born as Eonnyeon the slave. His denial is so strong that he literally only seems to realize the truth of that fact when Dae Gil spells it out for him in episode 16. And even then, Tae Ha refuses to accept it.

In fact, so strong are those traditionalist beliefs, that Tae Ha gets tripped up by them more than once. In episode 17, when Dae Gil is concerned about Eonnyeon’s safety and therefore wishes to talk, all Tae Ha can do is nitpick the fact that her name is Hye Won, not Eonnyeon. At this point, I was like, Seriously? Don’t you care about the fact that the woman you profess to love is in imminent danger because she is carrying the Royal Successor? Stupid man.

But that is how principled and stiff Tae Ha is, and when he finally comes around, even the small shifts feel authentic and organic, because he’s taken time to grapple with his beliefs.

As stiff as Tae Ha is, his loyalty is equally deep-seated. I find it revealing, that it is only in the later episodes, upon the realization that his men were slain by Commander Hwang, that he finally is incited enough to denounce Commander Hwang as his compeer. This, despite the multiple personal betrayals that he had suffered at Commander Hwang’s hands, even to the extent of being stripped of his military title and being (literally) branded a slave.

That says a lot, about the kind of upright and loyal character Tae Ha is.

[END SPOILER]

Chuno OST – 달에 지다

Lee Da Hae as Eonnyeon

Lee Da Hae as Eonnyeon is beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. Eonnyeon’s beauty is of the ethereal, luminescent, incandescent variety, and Lee Da Hae fulfilled the quota for gentle radiance very well.

While Lee Da Hae’s delivery is decent overall, I have to say that it does lean on the bland side.

Eonnyeon is graceful and elegant, and I suppose that is why Lee Da Hae imbues all of Eonnyeon’s expressions and gestures with a restrained, muted kind of demureness. While that’s all well and good, it really did get boring, after a while.

I guess what I would have preferred, is for Lee Da Hae to have dug deeper to give Eonnyeon more facets, textures and depth. Given the extreme range of circumstances and related emotions that Eonnyeon faces over the course of the show, there were ample opportunities for Lee Da Hae to show us more substance in her delivery. It’s disappointing that Eonnyeon remains rather two-dimensional despite the potential inherent in the role.

Before we get into spoilers, I thought I’d share a couple of Eonnyeon screenshots with ya. If the screenshot above is of Eonnyeon gently contemplative, then here is:

Eonnyeon, gently happy:

Eonnyeon, gently sad:

And Eonnyeon, gently shocked:

Sorry, couldn’t resist, heh. But see what I mean about muted and restrained?

[SPOILER ALERT]

In some ways, I found Eonnyeon unusually progressive for someone of her background. Like daring to love her young master, and having the audacity to feel disappointed that Dae Gil doesn’t tell his father about her when his father questions him about marriage (above).

Having been born into slavery, Eonnyeon would have grown up with the deeply ingrained notion that a slave has no hope of marrying her young master.

She would have also grown up with the notion that a slave does not refuse his/her master. So I found it interesting, and to some extent, a little jarring, when she refuses Dae Gil’s advances in episode 8.

As Dae Gil leans in to kiss her, Eonnyeon pulls away, saying, “In my childhood, when I knew nothing of this world, I thought of you as just a compeer of mine. It was only when I grew into adulthood… that I found out what coming from different classes truly meant. If you see me as someone to frivol with… I would never dare to refute that, however… I would prefer if you didn’t.”

Gracious words, to be sure. But coming from Eonnyeon, an uneducated slave-girl, it feels sufficiently discordant and odd to be distracting.

To the show’s credit, it does hang a lantern on this very thing. In episode 20, Seolhwa, on seeing Eonnyeon for the first time, remarks, “How can a slave be so elegant?!” Ha. Exactly.

On a more positive note, I appreciated that Eonnyeon shows flashes of strength, in spite of her generally bland and weak disposition. Like in episode 13, when she’s told to leave Tae Ha by the leading scholar of the conspiracy Jo Seonbi (Choi Duk Moon), she outright refuses, despite the pressure that he exerts on her.

I also liked that Eonnyeon shows some street smarts, evidenced in episode 17 in how she manages to get food and lodging for herself and the Royal Successor (Kim Jin Woo) by hinting that her husband is an officer of the court. And then later, she finds a way past the guards by pretending that she and the child are sick with something dangerously contagious.

On the romantic front, Eonnyeon spends much of the show being stuck between the promises she’s made to 2 men. On the one hand, there is Tae Ha, whom she has married. And on the other, there is Dae Gil, her One True Love come back to life.

I’ll spend more time looking at each of those relationships in a bit, but let me just say that by the end of the show, I think she does genuinely love both men, just in different ways.

[END SPOILER]

Han Jung Soo as General Choi

Han Jung Soo is ABSolutely pitch perfect as the ABtastic, stoic General Choi. Giggle. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

General Choi is a strong, silent, gentle giant who’s plenty badass in his own right, and I love how he’s the voice of reason in our favorite slave-hunting trio.

I am particularly tickled by the running gag through the show, that he draws all the women’s attentions and affections. Can’t quite blame the ladies, though, can we?

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]

I found it amusing that the Jumos both lust and pine after General Choi, each squirreling treats of extra food to him on the sly, while beside him, Wang Son grins and Dae Gil smirks.

At the same time, on the other side of the fence, the painter and horse doctor lust and pine after the Jumos. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

This side arc definitely brought a delightful side of comic relief. And General Choi, squirming uncomfortably from all the attention? It never gets old.

To give credit where credit’s due, here’s some badass General Choi for ya:

In episode 3 I love that he kicks ass using a handful of bush, when he’s separated from his spear:

And more general badassery:

[END MINOR SPOILER]

Kim Ji Suk as Wang Son

Kim Ji Suk is completely adorkable as Wang Son, the flighty, grumbly, lusty maknae of our slave hunter trio.

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]

As the maknae, Wang Son keeps having to do all the cooking and laundry, and it’s a running gag that he complains and nags about it like there’s no tomorrow:

It’s doubly funny that it is the boy who cooks and cleans and who has the least swag among them, that is the one who gets up to the most flirtatious mischief, always bedding the ladies:

And therefore often gets soundly disciplined by Dae Gil and General Choi:

While Wang Son definitely brings the laughs, like he does here:

I found it genuinely sweet that whenever he’s worried that Dae Gil is hurt, he’ll bawl like a baby:

Aw. He’s a loud handful, but he’s caring at heart.

[END MINOR SPOILER]

Kim Ha Eun as Seolhwa

Kim Ha Eun is wonderful as Seolhwa. Literally a breath of fresh mountain air, Seolhwa is sassy, impulsive and genuinely likable.

Seolhwa feels honest and unaffected as a character, and Kim Ha Eun imparts sufficient layers to Seolhwa, that underneath her bravado and sass, we can see Seolhwa’s borne many emotional wounds and scars in her young life.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Sassy and wise to men’s lusty hearts, Seolhwa doesn’t hesitate to use her wiles to get her way.

I love the running gag where she basically wraps Wang Son around her little finger, artfully getting her way while coquettishly hinting at (non-existent) rewards of the bedroom variety.

At heart, though, all Seolhwa wants is to feel like she belongs, and her saddest moments are always when she feels that she’s been abandoned:

I love, though, that no matter how hard it is, Seolhwa chooses to smile in the face of it all, even if it’s with tears in her eyes:

Gotta love such a gutsy girl.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Jong Hyuk as Commander Hwang

Considering that Commander Hwang is a fairly significant, albeit secondary, character, I felt that he was written a little flat.

Or perhaps, it was that Lee Jong Hyuk delivered him as too much of a cipher?

Lee Jong Hyuk made Commander Hwang badass by the boatload, which I appreciated and thought very apt for the character. At the same time, there were key points in the story where I found a lack of expression (for lack of a better word), with regard to his thought processes and decision-making. I can’t decide if this was a directorial or acting issue, but there were certainly moments in the show when I wondered exactly what he was thinking.

[SPOILER ALERT]

For most of the show, we see and experience Commander Hwang as a lean, mean, evil killing machine. He doesn’t hesitate to snuff out lives with a brandish of his sword, even if it’s of his past compatriots. Plus, for most of the show, he’s hunting down an adorable 4-year-old child. To kill him.

His doggedness and tenacity are almost machine-like, and his impassiveness make him inscrutable. It was easy to dislike him, since he was, y’know, trying to kill everyone.

Among Commander Hwang’s scenes, the moments that I appreciated the most, are the scenes that Commander Hwang shares with his mother (Kim Young Ok). It is only with his mother that we get to see flashes of gentleness from him, and hints that deep down, he’s not as evil as he appears to be.

I’ll talk more later, about Commander Hwang’s sudden turnaround at the end of our story.

[END SPOILER]

Min Ji Ah as Chobok

I really enjoyed Min Ji Ah as Chobok. She made Chobok refreshingly spunky, spirited and earthy.

I loved that Chobok is faster and smarter than the men, and has a disarmingly natural and unaffected smile. Sure, it’s unrealistic that a slave has such beautiful teeth, but well, it’s a drama. Heck, if Eonnyeon gets to stay clean throughout the show, Chobok gets to have pretty teeth.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Chobok listens in on the men as they plan their rebellion, and worms her way into the faction, insisting that she wants to be involved, while offering to act as their look-out and decoy.

It’s to her credit that she saves the men several times over the course of the show. And they hadn’t even wanted her around to begin with. Pfft.

I love that Chobok even teaches herself how to shoot a gun by cheerily eavesdropping on the men’s shooting lessons. That the men all fail miserably, while she manages to hit the target on her first try? Gold.

I enjoyed her the most, out of the entire rebel slave faction arc.

[END SPOILER]

Gong Hyung Jin as Eopbok

Eopbok is one of the major players in the rebel slave faction, and it is through his eyes that we see the brutality of slavery. It is also often through his thoughts and his voice that we grapple with the foundational morals – or lack thereof – in slavery.

While he isn’t one of my favorite characters, he does have several particularly memorable scenes, and Gong Hyung Jin delivered excellently. (More on that later)

[SPOILER ALERT]

It’s interesting to me, that among all the characters, Eopbok is the only one who shares Dae Gil’s dream. Or rather, I should say, Eopbok is the only one whose dream aligns with Dae Gil’s. Since through most of the show, Eopbok is intent on killing Dae Gil and all.

In episode 23, Eopbok muses, “If we [the slaves] triumph, and then force yangban into slavery, then nothing would really change.” … “Can we gain that power but still leave the yangban alone? By… What was it… Changing the system?”

Such irony, that the one man who echoes Dae Gil’s dream, is trying to blow Dae Gil’s brains out.

[END SPOILER]

Ha Si Eun as Lee Sun Young (Commander Hwang’s wife)

Mad props to Ha Si Eun, who played such a minor character so well that she not only brought Commander Hwang’s wife to life, but also brought tears to my eyes.

It must be no easy task, playing a character with palsy, but Ha Si Eun manages to imbue the incessant twitching of her body and distortion of her face with genuine emotion. We see clearly, her worry and fear for her husband, her frustration with her condition, as well as her despair at her one-sided love for her husband.

Wonderfully, tragically played.

Park Ki Woong as Geu Boon

Um. I don’t know how to talk about Park Ki Woong’s turn as Geu Boon without going into spoiler territory.

Without going into specifics, let me just say that his character felt a little random when he showed up, and his character arc also felt rather forced. I have seen Park Ki Woong do much better.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Ok, so the insertion of Geu Boon’s character felt a little random and forced, but I can believe Left State Councilor (Kim Eung Soo) would go that far, to plant someone to mislead the slaves and use them. It’s Geu Boon’s complete turnaround at the last stretch, with the manic evil eyes and sinister laughter that feels discordant, sudden and bemusing. It just makes Geu Boon the character feel more like a caricature than a real person. Maybe we should have been given hints earlier?

Also, Park Ki Woong’s delivery is sometimes majorly OTT, especially the villainous expressions. It’s like, “This Is My Evil Face. Bwahahaha.” It takes me out of the moment and makes me almost want to laugh. Except it’s so bad that it’s not funny.

Not one of Park Ki Woong’s finest moments, unfortunately. Guess he did get better at the Evil Face, though, since he did WAY better in Gaksital.

[END SPOILER]

Chuno OST – 낙인

RELATIONSHIPS

Forget plot machinations, it’s the relationships that form the core of the show. Over and above romance – although there is some of that – it’s bromance and brotherhood that trumps the day in Chuno.

Dae Gil, General Choi & Wang Son

The bromance between our slave hunting trio is Pure. Gold. I LUFF THESE BOYS TOGETHER. ♥

On the surface, Dae Gil, General Choi and Wang Son are completely different personalities. Dae Gil’s all swaggering, streetwise and smirky, while General Choi is strong, silent and stoic. And Wang Son’s all monkey and mischief.

Their dynamic works wonderfully, though, and beneath all the machismo and aggravated affection, these boys are family.

Waitaminute. I just had a stroke of brilliance. Taking the family analogy one step further, can you see that Dae Gil’s the father, all leader and decision-maker of the family? And then, General Choi is the mother, all voice of reason and quiet nagging. Wang Son? He’s their bratty son, ha. He whines all the time about chores, and gets into all kinds of mischief, which gets him soundly disciplined by both “parents” – HA! HAHAHA!! Can you tell that I’m extremely tickled by this?

Bottom line is, I LUFF THESE BOYS TOGETHER (oh, have I said that already?), and I would watch them scuffle and swagger and banter together, for a hundred episodes. And then some.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are so many moments where this rag-tag family tugged at my heartstrings.

In episode 12, during a quiet moment, General Choi senses that Dae Gil is troubled and asks, “I shouldn’t really say this, but aren’t we family? If anything is troubling you, just lean onto us.” Dae Gil scoffs, “Family?! Who, familiar scoundrels like us? We’re just tagging along the same path.”

But a touch of a wry smile plays about Dae Gil’s lips, hinting at the truth, that he does love them as family, even if he won’t say so.

A telling moment is in episode 14, in the way General Choi and Dae Gil desperately and relentlessly go after a missing Wang Son. It says so much about how much these men really care for each other, underneath the tough words and gruff exterior.

Among the three, Dae Gil is the one who is most gruff in his affections, refusing to admit that he loves General Choi and Wang Son. But in episode 16, we see how deeply he loves them, in how heartbroken he is, thinking them dead.

Dae Gil gets Jumo to set a table for three, and sitting at it all alone, he puts Wang Son’s arm band and General Choi’s headpiece on the other 2 bowls of rice, ie, acting as offerings to the “deceased” Wang Son and General Choi, as well as to represent their presence.

Dae Gil begins to eat, in what is quite possibly the most anguished egg-eating scene in the history of kdrama:

As he eats, he imagines General Choi and Wang Son eating with him, with their usual cheerful banter. Dae Gil speaks to them and offers them food, while tears stream down his face. So. Heartbreaking.

Tears. T.T

Poor Dae Gil.

To balance out this terribly heartbreaking moment, let’s revisit the most heartwarming moment between the three.

In episode 20, the three are finally reunited when Dae Gil arrives at Mt Worak. Hearing that Dae Gil has arrived, General Choi and Wang Son come racing.

Upon seeing them, Dae Gil is stunned, and touches General Choi on the cheek to test if he’s not a vision, while Wang Son sidles up to Dae Gil with a happy grin:

Dae Gil starts to yell at Wang Son for being such a dumbass and nearly getting himself killed, and amid the teary yelling, General Choi quietly grabs Dae Gil for a hug, saying simply, “I missed you.” AWWW.

Dae Gil’s tears finally overflow, and then, group hug! AWWW.

How cute. And how very, very sweet. Melt.

Although Dae Gil doesn’t say it, he loves these boys even more than he loves himself. We see this in episode 24 when General Choi and Wang Son realize that Dae Gil’s paid for land and houses for them. And it is only Dae Gil’s house that remains unpaid. His brothers came first, for him. That is so sweet.

I JUST LUFF THESE BOYS TOGETHER. ♥

[END SPOILER]

Dae Gil & Tae Ha

Song Tae Ha is the flint to Dae Gil’s steel, and the two spark off each other all drama long.

It’s a reluctant bromance, alright, seeing as how they’re not only as different as night and day, but that they’re mostly standing on opposite sides, and exchange blows almost every time they cross paths.

Much as they resent each other, though, these two shape each other, and in pretty powerful ways. Yes, we sometimes have to get through a whole lotta male posturing with these two, particularly since they love the same woman. But when all the blows have been delivered, these two reluctantly have deep, philosophical conversations. Conversations that end up shaping both men, pretty much against their will.

I love that these two head-strong characters, each so set in their thinking and their ways, affect each other in such a profound manner.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Dae Gil’s and Tae Ha’s interactions show us a lot about each of the men, in terms of their philosophies and outlooks on life and the world they live in, and I actually found that more interesting than the question of who would end up with Eonnyeon.

A revealing conversation between Dae Gil and Tae Ha takes place in episode 16, after they’ve finally stopped fighting and Dae Gil has gained the upper hand.

Tae Ha asks, “When you said she was one of your clan’s varlets, what did you mean?” and Dae Gil shoots back, “Why, is my having a past as a yangban all that vexatious?”

Disbelievingly, Tae Ha asks again, “Was my spouse… truly a slave?” Sardonically, Dae Gil replies, “And so what? Slave or yangban, what difference would it make? If you have feelings for each other, that is all it matters.”

Tae Ha counters, “Be that as it may… People’s roots are unalterable.”

But it is Dae Gil who has the last word, stating simply, “It’s because people like you are in power that we live in such a wretched world. If people like you didn’t exist, then there would be no need for people like me, either.”

I found this moment of honesty fascinating because it shows us so much about these two men.

Usually, Dae Gil is the one spouting hard-nosed stuff like “I had no feelings for a mere slave” etc, and Tae Ha is the one who’s portrayed as nice and noble. But when it comes down to a moment of honesty, we see that they actually feel quite differently.

Tae Ha’s the one who’s got caste ingrained in him, and who struggles – deeply – with the fact that Eonnyeon used to be a slave. Although Tae Ha himself experienced slavery, he doesn’t see himself as a real slave, because he didn’t come from a slave background. And he struggles with the fact that Eonnyeon came from a slave background, not seeing her as true nobility. Quite fascinating, considering how nice he’s been portrayed up till this point.

On the other hand, Dae Gil’s the one who is truly able to put his actions where his mouth is. He believes it so strongly, that he would act on it, and without hesitation.

What a contrast, these 2 men. And on multiple levels too. Notably, they are both educated as well, so it’s not a difference in education that accounts for their very different outlooks.

Another moment of honesty between the two men occurs in episode 22, as they rest in the darkness.

Tae Ha muses, “While spending my lifetime on the battlefield, I only had one thing in mind. That, should the battle be too much to handle, I would just die. That I would have given my everything, so there would be no regrets. But now, no matter how hard it is,  I must survive, so that path is much more arduous than accepting demise.”

Dae Gil answers with a touch of wistfulness, “You know, no matter how noble your intents are, people struggle by the same rules. Once misery engulfs you, your life can only get worse. So just take it as it comes. Abandon all greed and let it go. How nice it would be? Having a spouse and children, a land to farm… That’s all you need. A life of simplicity is a wise man’s greatest virtue. Warm and simple…”

Tae Ha then asks, “Back in the day, did you not wish to change the world yourself? To make a world without yangban or commoners? Did you not dream of making a world where… you could spend your entire life in peace with the woman you love?”

Dae Gil’s eyes deaden again as he answers, “Before I experienced reality… Back then, I did.”

Many of their conversations don’t have the sort of closure where one party agrees with the other, but watching them speak, you can just tell that each is giving the other substantial food for thought. And it is in the wake of these conversations that each grapples with his own philosophy and outlook on life and the meaning of it.

Another thought-provoking moment in conversation is in episode 23, when Dae Gil and Tae Ha bide their time at the inn.

At one point, Tae Ha says to Dae Gil, “Are you not of yangban ancestry yourself?”

Dae Gil replies, “There was such a time in the past. But, you know? Once you start wearing the same things and eating like they do, you become just like them. What makes a yangban is not his genealogy, but these [points at his clothes] and nothing else. I have never seen someone with fancy garments endure adversities, nor have I seen anyone in rags leading a happy life. That is the truth behind our lives.”

It’s clear that Dae Gil is a much more practical man than Tae Ha, in that he forms his thoughts and philosophies based on what he experiences, while Tae Ha clings to a fixed set of philosophies.

And I’m positive that these words from Dae Gil give Tae Ha much pause for thought, in terms of shifting his mindset to become finally fully able to accept and embrace his wife for who she is.

I particularly like the final conversation that Dae Gil and Tae Ha share in episode 24, after having been on the road for some time.

At one point, Tae Ha says to Dae Gil, “I feel sorry towards you. But is not chance part of our destiny as well?”

On the surface, it looks like Tae Ha is apologizing for taking Dae Gil on the run with him, but on a deeper level, I feel like it’s also a gentleman’s apology, for having unwittingly taken Eonnyeon away from him.

In another nice moment, Tae Ha finally acknowledges the value of Dae Gil’s street smarts, as Dae Gil rattles off all the details and factors relating to their journey.

Looking thoughtfully at Dae Gil, Tae Ha remarks, “I see you discount no detail whatsoever. I’ve learned a lot from you.”

I love that Dae Gil playfully smirks in reply, “Of course. You should get on your knees and be grateful. For all the things I taught you…” Hee.

What a long, long way these two have come. It’s taken quite a journey, but they’ve effectively moved from mutual disdain, to mutual respect. With a little bit of ribbing on the side.

Full Circle in the Open Fields

There’s a recurring motif that I really love, because it shows us how far Dae Gil and Tae Ha have come, in their relationship with one another, and that’s the motif of them fighting in open fields.

When the two men first meet, they are on opposite sides; the hunter and the hunted. Dae Gil sees Tae Ha simply as another job, while Tae He sees Dae Gil as an attacker he must fight off.

They face off, leaping headlong into each other, weapons raised:

By episode 22, the two men have arrived at a reluctant place of partnership and alliance.

There’s a great throwback moment, after they’ve fought off Commander Hwang’s men together, and Dae Gil and Tae Ha run towards each other with fists raised, as if to each other, and in slo-mo too, to show us the determination in their eyes.

Except their fists are really aimed at the other’s pursuer, whom we don’t see until each of their fists makes contact with the other’s pursuer. After they take down the other’s pursuer, Dae Gil and Tae Ha stand facing each other, smiling.

I loved how this moment is so reminiscent of their first face-off in the open field, yet so very different.

Finally, to bring us full circle, there’s a great moment in episode 24, where Dae Gil and Tae Ha run in the open fields, but this time, instead of facing off with each other as they did when they first met, they are running together, on the same side.

I love the little detail, that as they run, they each have a look of exhilaration on their faces.

Sure, Dae Gil mutters insults at Tae Ha all series long, even to the very end, but it’s clear that they work well together and they know it.

It’s completely gratifying to see the change in their relationship over the course of the show; from being a thorn in each other’s sides, to becoming reluctant partners.

Romance was never the main event in this show. Bromance was.

[END SPOILER]

Chuno OST – 비익련리(比翼連里)

Dae Gil & Eonnyeon

Truth be told, Dae Gil’s romance with Eonnyeon was never the focus of the show.

Because of our familiarity with kdrama romance tropes, we might tend to think of Dae Gil and Eonnyeon as our OTP. After all, we meet him first, before we meet anyone else, really, and we quickly see that beyond his badassery lies a heart that still beats for and yearns for Eonnyeon, his First Love. All classic symptoms of a couple that is Meant To Be.

But really, that’s just not how Chuno rolls.

Instead of being the central event, Dae Gil’s romance with Eonnyeon plays more of a expository role, because it is through this relationship and how it affects Dae Gil, that we get to see the inner workings of Dae Gil’s heart and mind.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Perhaps one of the most important things that Dae Gil’s relationship with Eonnyeon shows us, is Dae Gil’s outlook on slavery and equality.

In episode 8, Dae Gil, carrying Eonnyeon on his back, smiles as he shares his plan with her, “…I’ll have to pass the national examination.” Eonnyeon, smiling playfully, asks, “And after that?”

Dae Gil answers, “I’ll gain an important position in the court.” And Eonnyun presses, “And when you do?”

Dreamily, Dae Gil adds, “I’ll change this country.” Puzzled, Eonnyun asks, “How?”

Dae Gil concludes smilingly, “By making a world which doesn’t discriminate between yangban and commoners. So… you and I can live together. Forever.”

Precisely because Dae Gil is shown having an actual relationship with Eonnyeon, and seriously planning to actually do these things that he talks of, shows us plainly that this is something that he truly believes. That he’s willing to take action to support those beliefs. That it’s not just talk.

I find this point really important, in terms of distinguishing the differences between Tae Ha and Dae Gil like we talked about earlier, ie, at which point can each of these men love and accept Eonnyeon and her slave girl origins. For Dae Gil, this was never a question. He loved her from the very beginning, slave girl origins and all.

All series long, Dae Gil is doggedly focused on finding Eonnyeon again. I feel like after Dae Gil’s yangban stature disintegrates in the fire, together with his family, and all that was familiar to him, that he focuses his entire existence on the hope of finding Eonnyeon again. It’s likely that this is why he chose to be a slave hunter in the first place.

So when Dae Gil discovers that she is marrying Tae Ha, his whole world comes crumbling down, all over again. Once again, he’s forced to re-examine his driving purpose in life.

As Dae Gil breaks down wailing in the streets, and his tortured sobs shudder through his body, we can practically taste his agony. Thoroughly heartbreaking.

So great is Dae Gil’s love for Eonnyeon, though, that he does not stop loving her even though she is married to another man.

He continues to care for and ensure her safety, going out of his way to save her, like he does here when she’s dragged before a magistrate and questioned:

To be fair, Eonnyeon still feels a deep connection to Dae Gil too, and we see this in episode 15 when she feels Dae Gil’s presence before she even turns around to face him.

When Tae Ha and Dae Gil go at each other with their weapons, Eonnyeon shields Dae Gil with her own body, just before Tae Ha’s sword strikes him, willing to take the fall for him if necessary.

We see that Eonnyeon is terrified in the moment, and that the danger is very real. Yet, she does not hesitate to put her life on the line for Dae Gil.

Granted, Eonnyeon then does the same for Tae Ha, but I think it’s noteworthy that she shields Dae Gil first.

While it’s true that she is partly motivated by a deep sense of guilt over what happened to Dae Gil because of her and her brother, I believe that Eonnyeon’s actions here are motivated more by her love for Dae Gil.

After the two men leave to duel it out, Eonnyeon weeps, and I feel that her tears are more for Dae Gil than for Tae Ha. In her tears, I feel she is expressing a multitude of pent-up regret and sorrow over the twist of fate that has forever separated her from Dae Gil.

Subsequent to this, we see that even though Dae Gil continues to care deeply for Eonnyeon, that he repeatedly stands aside, respecting the relationship that Eonnyeon now has with Tae Ha.

I love that Dae Gil is not only made of such honorable stuff, but that his love for Eonnyeon is not dependent on whether or not he gets to be with her. I love the selfless nature of his love.

In episode 18, we finally see a measure of closure to Dae Gil’s and Eonnyeon’s relationship.

As Eonnyeon goes about her chores at Mt Worak, Dae Gil watches her from afar and it’s clear that he still loves her.

When Seolhwa shows up and pulls Dae Gil into a hug, Dae Gil hesitates for a moment before we see a look of resolution cloud his eyes. He then looks right at Eonnyeon and returns Seolhwa’s embrace.

Clearly, Dae Gil is sending Eonnyeon a message of closure in this moment, and Eonnyeon looks at him with sorrowful, teary eyes, understanding his message.

On one hand, one might argue that this makes Eonnyeon seem really greedy in that she has affection for Tae Ha but appears to not want to let Dae Gil go.

At the same time, I feel like she has a different sort of love for each man, and that she basically has a very special place in her heart for Dae Gil, the man who loved her for herself, not caring about her slave girl origins. And she mourns the moment of putting this love away, for good.

Of course, I do have issues with the way the moment of closure is treated, almost with hard defiance on Dae Gil’s part, and him using Seolhwa in the process. It doesn’t feel right, but it is what it is. Dae Gil’s not perfect by any means, and the show doesn’t hesitate to remind us of that.

In episode 21, Dae Gil muses to General Choi, “Not being able to see her was driving me crazy, but now that I can see her every day, it’s just killing me.”

The road that Dae Gil walks in terms of this love is never an easy one, and we see it all the more in his final words to Eonnyeon in episode 24.

As Dae Gil runs with his very last dredges of strength to face the troops who have arrived, he speaks in a final voiceover to Eonnyeon. In gentle, tender tones completely dissonant with his outer bloody surroundings, Dae Gil says, “Eonnyeon-ah… Eonnyeon-ah… Live in happiness. Spend endless moons with that man of yours, and that child, until the day we shall once again meet, and you will tell me how your life was. My Eonnyeon… My… beloved.”

Tears. And chills.

He loves her so, so very much that for him, it transcends life and even death.

[END SPOILER]

Tae Ha & Eonnyeon

If Dae Gil’s love for Eonnyeon is like a raging furnace that can’t be put out, then the love between Tae Ha and Eonnyeon would be like a pile of winking embers that, given a long time, finally grows into a muted but steady flame.

I confess that I was not very invested in this relationship during both of my watches of the show. But I do appreciate how their relationship moves from being shrouded in layers of half-truths, to a place where Tae Ha and Eonnyeon can be truly honest with each other.

In addition, it is Tae Ha’s relationship with Eonnyeon that serves as a barometer for his gradually shifting views on nobility and slavery.

[SPOILER ALERT]

To be honest, I found the beginning of this couple’s relationship a pretty shaky and superficial one.

Simply put, Tae Ha finds her beautiful and graceful, and is intrigued. Eonnyeon, on the other hand, is indebted to him for saving her from being raped by thugs. Plus, he’s good protection for a girl traveling alone.

To top it off, both lie about not being pursued. And both also lie, about not being slaves.

It is only when the layers of lies get slowly peeled away, that they are forced to confront and grapple with the truth.

In episode 9, part of the truth gets unraveled as Tae Ha’s headband gets sliced off during a fight:

Tae Ha looks at Eonnyeon in shock, like a deer caught in headlights, as he realizes that his secret has just been exposed. Eonnyeon, in turn, looks at him in stunned realization. Before this, Tae Ha had strenuously denied that he was a slave. But now, the evidence is staring at her from his forehead: 奴. Slave.

From this point onwards, Tae Ha and Eonnyeon have several conversations surrounding this, with Tae Ha still emphatic that he is not a slave, and that he’s got more important things to tend to, than shedding his slave status.

Notably, Tae Ha still speaks in riddles, which confuses Eonnyeon, “You are a slave but not a slave. You are one the being chased but you are not running away. What kind of words are these? Which words that you speak are ones I can believe in and which words should I throw away?”

At the same time, I find it significant that Eonnyeon chooses not to reveal her own slave background, even when Tae Ha’s slave background has been uncovered.

As the pair continue to travel together on Tae Ha’s mission, they gradually exchange tokens of affection, such as here, where she takes his hand, or on the cliff-tops, where they embrace, and she allows him to kiss her:

I feel, though, that the more significant change, on Eonnyeon’s part at least, is in episode 12, where she goes to the temple and prays for Tae Ha.

I find it quite key, that she now prays for Tae Ha instead of Dae Gil. I think that’s a true sign that he’s entered her heart, even though it’s not verbalized yet. I find this more significant than the kiss even, because this is what she used to do for Dae Gil in the past, even praying for him through the night.

As the episodes progress, though, we see that there is one thing that remains a sore point – and a barrier, at that – in their relationship and marriage. That is, that Tae Ha cannot accept the fact that Eonnyeon used to be a slave. We see that surface every time Tae Ha has a conversation that with Dae Gil, and Dae Gil refers to her as Eonnyeon instead of Hye Won.

Another noteworthy thing, is that the relationship between Tae Ha and Eonnyeon is one that is based on loyalty more than romantic feelings.

In episode 19, Eonnyeon decides to leave Tae Ha because of her slave past, and because she does not wish to stand in the way of his mission.

I find it telling, that it takes Tae Ha some time to decide to stop her. And that when he does move to stop her from leaving, this is all he can say,”I pledged to myself I would awaken to the anguish of our people, but I never envisioned a world without slavery, or the same traditional tenets which guided us.” … “Even while experiencing slavery firsthand, I could not think of that. No matter how long it takes, until the day when I walk on the righteous path, will you aid and await me?”

Not at all romantic, and it’s revealing that all he speaks of is a higher purpose. I mean, a higher purpose is all well and good. But surely sometimes, especially at this time, it’s important to approach things in a more personal way?

I also find it significant, that Tae Ha, even having experienced slavery first-hand, had never envisioned a world without slavery. What does this tell us about him? At best, he’s a square who can’t think out of the box. At worst, he’s a snob who doesn’t think that slavery is wrong, even when he experienced the humiliation and suffering first-hand. He only thought that he was NOT a slave and therefore these treatments were not rightly applied to him.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Tae Ha or anything. I just think that his deeply ingrained traditionalist views, combined with his very straight-laced personality, are what stand in his way of changing his paradigm of the world. He just cannot imagine it.

Again on the topic of loyalty, I found it noteworthy that even though Eonnyeon talks of having loved Dae Gil, that she doesn’t talk of loving Tae Ha.

Between her and Tae Ha, they only talk of loyalty and fealty. And perhaps that may mean more to a military man such as Tae Ha, but to a woman, love means more. And she doesn’t ever say that she loves Tae Ha.

Still. We see that Eonnyeon does look at Tae Ha with affection, as she does in episode 19, when she looks at him sleeping with the boy. I think it’s just a very different sort of love compared to the love that she had for Dae Gil.

It is only in episode 20, after many, many episodes of internal grappling, that Tae Ha seems to finally get over the fact that Eonnyeon used to be a slave.

As Eonnyeon talks to the Royal Successor in her arms and tells the child that her name is Hye Won, but she used to be known as Eonnyeon, Tae Ha looks at her with tears in his eyes and says, “Whatever your name is, it doesn’t matter. Be it Hye Won or Eonnyeon, all you are to me is my spouse.”

FINALLY.

And Eonnyeon, tearing up, responds, “Hearing that makes me feel like I’ve truly become your spouse, at last.”

What a long journey that was, for this couple to finally arrive at a place of truth and mutual understanding. On the upside, though, their love feels quite true to life, in that I find it similar to the muted, gentle affections of a long-married couple.

[END SPOILER]

Dae Gil & Seolhwa

Seolhwa’s crush on Dae Gil is pretty much summed in this screenshot right here.

She’s the one trailing after him, proactively making her feelings known, and he’s the one, well, enduring her attention.

I found the dynamic between Seolhwa and Dae Gil sweetly tragic, because Seolhwa actually knows that Dae Gil only has room in his heart for Eonnyeon. Yet, she continues to set her eyes and her heart on him, and her earnestness is poignantly touching.

And honestly, who can blame the girl for nursing a crush on sexy Orabeoni?

[SPOILER ALERT]

One of the things I found particularly interesting about Dae Gil’s scenes with Seolhwa, is that there are many times the show uses their scenes as parallels to scenes of Tae Ha and Eonnyeon. The scenes , meaningfully and interestingly interwoven, often appear similar on the surface, but have deeper, very different meanings for each pair of characters.

One example is in episode 7, where Dae Gil carries a drunk Seolhwa on his back, while silently thinking back to the days when he used to carry Eonnyeon the same way.

The scene splices away, to show us, in parallel, Tae Ha carrying Eonnyeon on his back, injured and unconscious.

As both men walk on, we see that each woman drops her most prized possession. Seolhwa drops her hae-geum, and Eonnyeon drops the stone that Dae Gil used to heat for her, to keep her hands warm.

We then see Dae Gil bending down to pick up Seolhwa’s hae-geum, while Tae Ha, oblivious, walks on, leaving the stone behind.

It feels like moment filled with poetry and symbolism.

Both women drop something precious, but the implications are completely different. And the scene of Eonnyeon dropping the stone and moving away on Tae Ha’s back seems to imply her leaving Dae Gil behind.

The scenes between these pairs are also often interspliced to magnify the meaning of the moment. For example, Eonnyeon’s happy wedding scenes with Tae Ha are interspliced with Dae Gil’s heartwrenching wailing on the street while Seolhwa cries, looking on. Juxtaposed with the happy wedding scenes, the magnitude of Dae Gil’s grief is amplified.

Continually contrasted like this, it does feel like Dae Gil and Eonnyeon are living in parallel lines but walking in opposite directions, away from each other.

Another thing that stands out to me, about Seolhwa’s relationship with Dae Gil, is that she is often there with him during his lowest moments. It’s the pay-off, of always trailing him around.

When he wails, heartbroken, on the street, she’s there, tearing too.

And when he’s in disbelief and grief over the death of Eonnyeon’s brother, she’s there too, to pat his shoulder, to hold his hand, and to cry with him.

And so I found it fitting that at the very end of his life, Seolhwa is there too, to send him off with tears, a smile and a song.

A bittersweet love indeed.

[END SPOILER]

Eonnyeon & Seolhwa

I found the blossoming friendship between Seolhwa and Eonnyeon rather sweet.

I love the arc, that Seolhwa, from being envious and jealous of Eonnyeon, eventually comes to see Eonnyeon as the friend and older sister she never had.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The relationship between Seolhwa and Eonnyeon begins in episode 21, when Seolhwa gets drunk at the feast that the Mt Worak folks prepared, and pays Eonnyeon a visit in her room.

In her drunken state, Seolhwa drunk-talks to Eonnyeon, “Why did you do it? Why did you show up, and start tearing Daegil Orabeoni’s heart to pieces? I’m sorry. But… I can’t help but resent you. I can’t help but… envy you. If I become just like you, will Orabeoni even glance at me?”

Tearing up with compassion, Eonnyeon gathers Seolhwa in her arms, comforting her, “Cry it all out. Could there be anyone free from sorrow?”

Thereafter, we get several small interludes where the two women spend time together.

I liked that they shared their thoughts with each other as they spent time, Eonnyeon teaching Seolhwa how to read and write, and Seolhwa entertaining Eonnyeon and her “son” with the hae-geum.

I found it particularly sweet that Seolhwa would wait for Eonnyeon to return so that she could entertain her “son.”

I really enjoyed watching the unfolding of this sisterhood, and it’s too bad it got truncated by circumstances.

[END SPOILER]

Chuno OST – 천하(天下)에 고함

Eopbok & Chobok

I rather enjoyed the blossoming love relationship between Eopbok and Chobok.

Their romance added levity to the otherwise heavy-going arc of the rebel slave faction.

Also, I found it amusing that the show kept portraying Eopbok as either too slow or too insecure to realize that Chobok has feelings for him.

[SPOILER ALERT]

A really cute moment between this couple is in episode 20, where they talk indirectly about their feelings for each other.

As they walk home in the night, Eopbok asks Chobok what she would do if they really manage to turn the world upside down and Chobok rattles off a bunch of things, including going to Mt Geumgang in the winter.

Eopbok baulks, “Say what? How could you go there all by yourself?” Without missing a beat, Chobok answers, “Why would I be by myself? You can just tag along.”

Eopbok looks at her disapprovingly, “Think you could win me over so easily, prancing around with you?”

Chobok grins, “Who said I wanted to win you over? If my leg hurts on the way, you can always carry me on your back.”

Eopbok protests, “Do you need to go all the way to Mount Geumgang for that?” Brightly, Chobok shoots back, “Why? Will you do it right now?”

Suddenly all concerned, Eopbok asks, “Does your leg hurt again?” and Chobok beams, “Yes!”

Such an outright lie. Hee. But, piggyback ride it is!

On the other end of the spectrum, I found the scene between Eopbok and Chobok in episode 23 particularly moving.

After rescuing her from her new husband, to whom she’d been unceremoniously sold, Eopbok urges Chobok to go to Mt Worak without him.

Chobok refuses with tears in her eyes, and Eopbok asks, tears burgeoning, “Chobok. Should we just… run away and live together? I will hunt, you will be farming, we will catch tigers and sell their skin at hefty prices… You’ll watch flowers blossom, dabble in the water, and after living together that way, we’ll have children. Should you and I… just live that way? Is that what you wish for? Going to a place where nobody knows us, you and I…”

After a moment’s pause, Chobok gives her answer tearfully,”No. Then, who will change the world? You need to go there and fight.”

Eopbok, tears spilling over, smiles, “Thank you. For saying that.”

They say goodbye tearfully and kiss.

I found this scene moving for showing us the sacrificial spirit behind their higher yearning for a better world. That they would give up their own happiness, in order to fight for a better world – I found that poignant and inspiring.

On a side note, as they kiss, their adjacent cheeks read “奴婢” – I wonder if the writers planned that far ahead for this moment of statement / irony?

[END SPOILER]

Hanseom & the Court Lady

Even though they are minor characters, I was rather taken and very moved by the love story of Hanseom (Jo Jin Woong) and the court lady.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I found their simple love story, cut short too soon, completly heartwrenching and tragic.

In episode 10, while on the run from Commander Hwang and his murderous intent, Hanseom carries the Royal Successor, as he and the court lady walk through a field.

He asks her name, and she demurs repeatedly. Han Seom, mildly exasperated, asks, “Will you tell me your name, or not? Never had such a hard time exchanging names before.” His mock chagrin is adorable, and she’s noticeably swayed.

Just as his court lady is about to finally give him an answer, Commander Hwang’s makeshift spear pierces into her back.

Tears spill onto her cheeks as she starts to lean forward from the pain, and she manages, “M…My… name… Jang… Pilsoon…”

Crying in disbelief, Hanseom can only say, “I said you can survive…”

She gasps, “I’m… from… Pimat-gol… in Hanyang…”

Hanseom’s anguished cries are heartbreaking, “No! I told you I’d make you bask in luxury! Don’t! Listen! Listen to me!”

Trembling, Hanseom lays Pilsoon’s head on the ground. Words desert him and all he can manage are guttural, tortured shaking sobs.

Tears. So very heartbreaking.

And Hanseom’s grief and sorrow, mixed with his resolute loyalty to carry out his duty, even as he fights his tears, makes him so endearing.

In episode 21, tragically, Hanseom dies, betrayed by Jo Seonbi. But his vision of being reunited with the woman he loves and them leaving together is sweet and moving.

I love that she greets him, saying, “Where have you been all this time?”

The idea that she’s been waiting for him, to spend the afterlife together, is sweet.

Hanseom’s still as adorable in the afterlife, telling her, “I’ll make you bask in luxury.”

Aw.

[END SPOILER]

REBEL SLAVE FACTION

I’ll be the first to admit that I found the rebel slave faction arc less interesting than the story surrounding our slave hunters.

During my first watch, I barely tolerated the presence of this arc, and found it too distanced from what I considered the main story.

On my second watch, though, I found myself much more tolerant of this arc, and even rather appreciative of it for the themes that it brings out in the show. I also found the slave characters more interesting this time around.

One of the recurring thoughts in the drama, is that slaves are not people. It comes up repeatedly.

[MINOR SPOILER]

Like when the painter says junior Jumo is his best portrait after the king himself, she pouts about the portrait of Eonnyeon that he keeps drawing for Dae Gil.

The painter assures her smilingly, “I’m talking about portraits of people, not of slaves”

[END MINOR SPOILER]

The show is always treading that line between showing us how slaves are viewed and treated as less than human, and how slaves really ARE people. Throughout the drama, we are shown how slaves are exchanged for livestock between masters, and how they are basically beaten and branded like animals.

And it is because of this existing thinking, that in an equivalent reversal, the slaves don’t think of their masters as people either. Which explains why the slave rebel faction blithely kills off noble yangban without a second thought.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In episode 16, Eopbok asks Chobok, “Wouldn’t it be better to make a world where there are neither slaves nor yangban?”

Chobok’s answer is telling, “A world without yangban or slaves might be wonderful, but what I want to do now is avenge what those yangban did to me.”

[END SPOILER]

And so it is, that the ugliness of human nature propels the slaves to a cyclically flawed goal instead of a truly better world.

Ultimately, the slave faction’s mission is really a quest for recognition and dignity. Because their masters don’t see or treat them as people, their quest is simply to be recognized as people and to have human dignity. The reason they go to extremes is because of how unyielding the prevailing belief system is. Because they believe that they need to go that far, in order to create a dent in an unyielding belief system.

WEAKNESSES

There are many minor weaknesses in Chuno, but I think I’m not alone in saying that the biggest weakness in this show, is the amount of screentime dedicated to political machinations in the later episodes.

I felt the story slump the hardest, from episodes 18 to 22, where we spent way too much time on the politicking in the court than our main characters. As much as I understand how important the politics are, as a context for our characters, I did feel that we could have done with a lot less of it.

Chuno OST – 잃어버린 낙원

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING 

During my first watch of Chuno, I’ll admit that there were parts of the ending that didn’t make sense to me. Probably because I watched it as a casual viewer.

On my second watch, paying closer attention, and with a more analytical lens on, I finally appreciate the ending for what it was intended to be.

I’m going to touch on the closure of various characters and where we leave them.

[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THIS REVIEW]

Eopbok

Eopbok, upon discovering his dead comrades, cradles Ggeutbong’s body and muses aloud, “Ggeutbong-ah. I don’t think I can live without Chobok. She said she’d be waiting for me… But I’m not going to die like a beast. I’ll show them… Show them that even slaves like us… live in this world. If I can only do that, it’ll be worth dying for. Isn’t that right, Chobok?”

It’s a heartbreaking decision, but he knows that Chobok will choose the higher mission over her own comfort.

Eopbok’s plan to charge the palace is the ultimate dream that he and his comrades had held together. And now that all of them had perished but for him, he charges the palace to fulfill their collective dreams. A statement, for the price of his life.

That he manages to kill – pretty much by accident – Geu Boon, is so satisfying. And that he, representing his fellow slaves, kills the Left State Councilor – the one behind the entire conspiracy, the one who basically manipulated the slaves, the one whom everyone else was powerless against – is pure poetic justice.

Constable Oh

Ha. I love that Constable Oh gets his just deserts.

He gets hauled in for questioning and torture even though he’s not to blame. Just like he used to do to the townsfolk that he used to terrorize.

His replacement constable surmises of his fate: “Guess if he’s lucky, they’ll only force him into slavery.” Yet another instance of poetic justice, since he used to trade in slaves as if they were objects.

But some things just don’t change. The new constable is an even more demanding tyrant than Constable Oh used to be. I guess systemic change doesn’t come easy, is what they’re trying to say.

Dae Gil

Dae Gil’s parting words to Eonnyeon, charging her to leave with Tae Ha, are, “Take him and leave.” … “You must survive and make a better world.. Only then will there be no more people like us. Eonnyeon… You must survive… Only if you do… Will I go on living. Leave now!”

In the end, Dae Gil gives his life towards his original dream to change the world. Only it’s not by the means that he’d originally intended. It’s not by taking the exam and getting into a position of power to effect change in the world.

I feel like Dae Gil has finally come full circle, back to his original dream of making a better world, except this time, he approaches it with an even higher wager – his very life.

I believe that coming back to his dream, his motivation and resolve has strengthened to something much more profound than simply making it possible for him to live with the woman he loves. Now, it’s a higher, greater purpose, and he’s willing to pay the price of his life towards it. And it is only through Eonnyeon’s eyes that he will get to see the new world that he gives his life for.

As I mentioned earlier, I found it fitting too, that Seolhwa was the one with Dae Gil in his final moments.

In a truly heartbreaking moment, Dae Gil, with his last few breaths, finally addresses her by name, “I’m sorry… Seolhwa-ya. Darkness surrounded me, so I could not see your heart was beating for me.”

These words help to shed light on how the show resolves Commander Hwang’s arc as well, and I will talk about that in a little bit.

Tae Ha

As Tae Ha and Eonnyeon flee, Tae Ha’s strength finally starts to give out, and he asks Eonnyeon to leave without him, for Qing territory.

With tears and gasping breaths, he tells her, “I shall not… leave with you for Qing territory.” … “I am too indebted to this land of mine, so I don’t believe I could ever leave it.” … “I shall recover in no time. Once I have recovered, we must make a better world. Hyewon. Eonnyeon! I shall make sure you will never have to use two names…”

I found it really meaningful, that while it was slow in the coming, that Tae Ha would address Eonnyeon by her original name in his last few breaths. That he genuinely had come to embrace and yearn for the promise of a better world without slavery. That in their final moments, both he and Dae Gil had arrived at a place of complete agreement in terms of their hopes and dreams for the world and its future.

Commander Hwang

Left to battle it out while Eonnyeon flees with a severely injured Tae Ha, Commander Hwang and Dae Gil fight until their strength is almost depleted.

Commander Hwang asks Dae Gil, mid-battle: “What is the reason you’re doing all this?”

Dae Gil answers simply, “That fool rescued me once.” Incredulous, Commander Hwang asks, “Is that all?”

Dae Gil raises his voice, almost in anticipation, “He said he’d change it! This wretched world of ours!”

Frustrated, Commander Hwang says, “Even you… Even you bring me misery.”

Dae Gil smirks, “You may resent this world, but you shouldn’t resent people. Nice, isn’t it? Even if we only rid this world of people like you and me, I’m sure… it will be a better place.”

And with those words, Dae Gil lets out his final battle cry as he runs into the approaching troops, towards certain death.

Dae Gil’s words seem to have a profoundly deep effect on Commander Hwang. He actually stops his men from pursuing Tae Ha, saying “I won.. It’s all over.”

On my first watch, this puzzled me. But now I see that Dae Gil’s words basically turn him around. He’s actually covering for Tae Ha, so that he can change the world.

And knowing that, changes the meaning behind his words. “It’s all over” = the fighting and politicking instigated by his father-in-law to prevent the absolution of the Royal Successor.

Later, we see Commander Hwang finally approach his wife, in the scene immediately following Dae Gil’s parting words to Seolhwa, about not being able to see her heart due to the darkness around him.

In the light of Dae Gil’s words, Commander Hwang finally being able to approach his wife and sob in her arms makes a lot more sense. Because the darkness around him has lifted, he is now finally able to see her pure heart beneath her awkward affliction. And I believe, he sees too, the evil of his actions for those past months.

I also found it significant that it is Commander Hwang’s voice that peacefully narrates in voiceover, the eventual discontinuation of slave hunting and the absolution of Seokgyeon from exile. It was only at the end, that I realized that it is also Commander Hwang’s voice that narrates, in episode 1.

That puts a whole different spin on everything, that this is a story that he’s telling. That he’s the one who survived to see the good that came out of everyone’s sacrifices. The peaceful tone of his voice also suggests that he’s finally come to terms with his own darkness, now able to tell us about the brighter future, hard-won by our other characters.

Chobok with Eunshil

Our closing scene is of Chobok, her arm around Eunshil as they watch the sun rise.

Thoughtfully, Chobok says, “Eunshil. Know to whom that sun belongs to?”

Eunshil asks, “Who?” Chobok answers, “To us.”

This time, Eunshil asks, “Why?”

Chobok, a tear streaming down her cheek, replies peacefully, “Because, never even once… have we been able to possess it.”

I found it fitting, that the show chose to close on the idea that belonging, is completely different from possession. That someone can belong to you, but you cannot possess someone.

And of course, how much do I love that we get to see General Choi and Wang Son farm the land that Dae Gil bought for them, finally able to live the quiet life they’d longed for, still bantering and still abstastic? A whole lot, that’s what.

Edit: So many people have shared with me how they really, really want to see this epilogue clip of the boys, but that it’s impossible to find. I never knew that. I just know that it was in my copy of the show. So.. I’ve extracted that bit for everyone to enjoy and here it is:

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I’m amazed at how much more invested I am on this watch than the last one. I feel like the show is so much better than I remembered it to be.

Honestly, when I thought this show was about the slave hunters, the ending made a lot less sense to me, because it felt like the story was losing its focus on our main characters. If a show is titled Slave Hunter, then shouldn’t we focus on the slave hunters, is what I thought.

Now, though, with a more critical lens on, and a better grasp of the language, I realize that the show is simply Chuno, ie, 추노, or in Hanja, 推奴, which refers to the act of hunting slaves, rather than the person. That puts a completely different spin on things, doesn’t it?

It’s about loyalty, courage, and selflessness for the sake of more than one’s own satisfaction and pleasure. It’s about higher ideals and more important things than a long-lost love. Higher ideals that people are willing to die for, to make the difference.

And they die for those higher ideals with courage and fire in their eyes. They look ahead to a better tomorrow and a better world, even if, for them, it’s in the after-life that they will see it.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Glorious, despite its flaws. A must-see.

FINAL GRADE: A++

Edit: Loved Chuno? You might like my imaginary dream Chuno sequel, which you can find here!

VISUAL TREATS:

For a gorgeously shot drama like Chuno, which has such a fantastic OST, it’s surprisingly difficult to find MVs in HD. Here’s the best of what I could rustle up. Enjoy!

Non-spoilery trailer for those who haven’t watched the show:

The badass Dae Gil cut, also found in my Jang Hyuk post, set to the same track:

Here are 2 moderately spoilery MVs featuring 2 lovely ballads from the OST. The second vid is not in HD, so just imagine it many times sharper, more intense and all-around gorgeous, ok?

Finally, a fairly spoilery MV, which runs like a badass cool, extended trailer for the show.

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

161 thoughts on “Review: Chuno [Slave Hunter]

  1. Pingback: A Liebster Award. Kinda. [Liebster the Eighth!] | The Fangirl Verdict

  2. Kfangurl, you have such a way with words! 🙂 This is one of the best Kdramas I have watched. except for the sad scenes, I had a smile on my face throughout this series. There was so much eye candy:) I have made a cd of the soundtrack and listen to it everyday, be it in the car or at the office. I will definitely watch this again, but right now I have so many other good ones to watch:)

    Btw, thanks for mentioning “Fermentation family” I’m currently watching that one. Keep the reviews coming! 🙂
    Have a great weekend!

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    • Thanks, Surusa, I’m glad you enjoyed the review! And yes, Chuno is a great show to rewatch.. I enjoyed it even more the second time around! And yes, that OST is just AH-MA-ZING. Love it!

      I do feel ya, though.. there are always new and shiny dramas clamoring for our attention, so it’s a hard call on where to spend those precious drama hours! I will say, though, having rewatched Chuno, that even the second time around, it’s a worthy watch 🙂

      Glad you started on Fermentation Family, I really rather liked that one! Hope you enjoy the watch! ^^

      Like

  3. Pingback: Review: The Princess’ Man | The Fangirl Verdict

  4. Pingback: Loving: Gong Yoo | The Fangirl Verdict

  5. Such purrrty pictures to go with your purrty words :)!! I haven’t watched this yet, I kinda feel like this deserves more attention than I’m able to give at this point in time. So it’s been on the back burner for a while. OH but then just look at those pics of Jang Hyuk … hmm *searches for video files*

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    • LOL!! I can say this much: Jang Hyuk alone is MORE than reason enough, to watch Chuno. Although, Chuno does have a lot of its own merits too 😉 I hope those Jang Hyuk pix are persuasive enough to convince you ;D

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      • Hmm yes he does look like he has enough powers to take my mind off IHYV’s imminent end next week. I need all the distraction I can get.. 🙂

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        • Well, let’s just say that when Jang Hyuk swaggered onto my screen in Chuno, he very quickly had my undivided attention! If you’re anything like me, I think you’ll be in good hands with Chuno! 😄

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      • Amen to that! This is the only show I watched without checking the background at all. That horse-riding hunk in the trailer was sooooooo hot I got to have more. My! He was totally weakening…*giggle,giggle and more giggles* Should rewatch this to appreciate the story… hehehe

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        • LOL! Sounds like your Chuno experience was just like mine, kaiaraia!! 😄 During my first watch of Chuno, Jang Hyuk swaggering on my screen, oozing manly manly charisma and badassery, was ALL I could focus on. I had no bandwidth for ANYTHING else. So imagine my surprise when I rewatched Chuno, only to discover that the show itself is pretty darn awesome too. DEFINITELY worth a rewatch at some point. PLUS, the Jang Hyuk sexy just never gets old. Swooonn~~

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          • Its decided then, this should be on my screen now! But I don’t wanna watch it with my hubby, hahaha!

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            • Hee! I can imagine that it might get challenging containing the inevitable swooning, if hubs is sitting right next to ya! 😉 I know I swooned a LOT while watching the shirtless stretch, for sure.. Delicious, hawt, sexay Jang Hyuk.. Swooonn~~

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  6. Pingback: Admiring (& Ogling): Jang Hyuk | The Fangirl Verdict

  7. I skimmed like a mad-person to prevent spoilers, but from what I did read… yet another drama to add to the list. 🙂

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    • Ooh! I’d imagined that you’d already seen this one!! Good job on the skimming 😉 I think you’ll enjoy this one, & I think your hubs might enjoy it too. I hope you do manage to check it out sometime!! ^^

      Like

      • It’s one I’ve had in the back of my mind as a good one to watch with the hubs so we’re both seeing it fresh together. And now it’s been bumped a little further up the list. 😉

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  8. Epic review of an epic drama. I am still reeling a bit from E24 but had to come directly here to read and praise and praise and read! ❤

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    • Reeling – that’s the perfect descriptor for how this drama leaves you! The first time I watched Chuno, it lingered with me significantly, even though I didn’t love the ending. It has that “won’t-let-you-go” kind of effect, doesn’t it??

      But yay, that we’ve finally gotten to a drama where you can actually read my review from start to finish, without madly dodging spoilers! 😄

      When you’ve recovered from Chuno a little, and perhaps any lingering jet lag, I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on Chuno! ❤

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      • Oh yes…I am working on a fuller response! 🙂 And YES, at long last a review I could languidly (that’s a good Dae Gil word) read through it…ALL of it!

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        • Ooh.. languid Dae Gil’s rubbed off on you, you languid reader, you! ;D I’m SO glad I did a re-watch with you – not only does it mean you don’t need to dodge spoilers, it’s made me appreciate the drama much, MUCH more than before. And I love when that happens! You know the reason I decided on a re-watch is really ALL to do with your Dae Gil related squees 😉

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  9. Masterpiece review for a masterpiece drama! I loved every single word of your posting. Make me want to rewatch Chuno again and appreciate it even deeper…
    Just one small information for you. You know how you wondered if JH filmed the young Daegil scenes first so that he can get leaner and film the rest of Daegil? That’s what I thought too, but surprisingly, he filmed the young Daegil in the middle of other scenes. So it was the magic of makeup+lightings+innocent eyes that created younger fuller innocent Daegil. So that young noble boy already had six packs underneath his clothes 😛
    I also wonder if you noticed that when Hyewon and Taeha were talking in a hut Daegil quietly came out (he knows when to step aside, aww), sat on the ground, and wrote Hyewon’s name on the ground. He wrote Hyewon, not Eonnyun, and that just impressed me. He was so much faster than Taeha to accept the woman’s two different identities. Daegil was just born more open-minded than Taeha, I think.
    Anyway, again thanks for a great comprehensive review! I can’t even imagine how much time you spent on this.

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    • Aw, thanks! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the review! Coming from a serious Chuno and Jang Hyuk fan, I take that as a big compliment!! ❤

      I'm pretty blown away, by that tidbit of info, that JH filmed the flashback scenes in the midst of other scenes. I wonder if he shaved his goatee for it, then wore a fake one, or did they manage to cover up his goatee in the flashback scenes with makeup? It blows my mind, how they managed that! O.O

      And yes, I remember how Dae Gil wrote "Hye Won" in the ground! If memory serves, I think he'd just found out her other name, so when I watched it, I interpreted it as him trying out her name. Like, seeing how it felt on his lips etc. But I definitely agree that Dae Gil is quick to accept both of her identities. After all, he's always been the one who accepts Eonnyeon for who she is, regardless of her slave background, and then later, regardless of the name that she chose to go by.

      I'm also happy to say that I'm getting faster at writing these epic-length reviews. The first time I went really epic, it was for Gaksital, and that took me almost a whole week. This time, I was at it for roughly 3 full days. And this turned out to be even LONGER than the Gaksital one! I'm happy though, to be getting more time efficient with it! ^^

      Like

  10. WOOOOW, this was the best review of anything I’ve ever read. I have to agree with almost all of it. And Your glorious screen captures brought tears to my eyes. I have only seen this drama once. I watched it a huge fan of Oh Ji Ho and became an even deeper fan afterwards, but this was also my introduction the marvelous Jang Hyuk and soon after I was inhaling all the dramas I could find with him. I really need to rewatch this again, though I may skip the minister parts and the innkeeper scenes. Sometimes I found it all to be frivolous filler. It was only cool when the the trio were there and the girls were fawning over General Choi! Love him too. Wish he would lead a drama soon.

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    • Aw, thanks Lady G! What a compliment!! *blush* I’m so glad you enjoyed the review, and I’m also rather stoked that it’s inspired you to consider re-watching Chuno! While the court politics did get really draggy in the later eps, I do think it provided an important context for our characters. And to their credit, the innkeeper scenes did give some insight into how it all affected the common-folk. Of course, I so agree that my favorite times were when our boys were onscreen doing their thing, so I perfectly understand the urge to skip ahead to get to more of that wonderful brotherhood ^^

      And yes, I can definitely see Han Jung Soo rocking a lead role, preferably in a sageuk. He’s got sageuk face and body written all over him 😉

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      • You’re right about the context with the innkeepers and the Ministers. It can’t be non-stop action every minute. lol I loved the quiet scenes with Commander Hwang Chul Woong and Cho Bok. I was convinced she really had Cerebral Palsy. Her acting blew me away. Lee Jong Suk is a really good actor and though he’s often cast as stern characters, he knows how to create such depth to them. He was marvelous in the recent Cyrano, and funny too.

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        • I completely agree that Ha Si Eun did an amazing job as Commander Hwang’s wife. Not only was she incredibly convincing with the character’s palsy, she managed to convey SO MUCH, over and above the struggling and twitching. Respect.

          Also, giggle. I think you must be quite taken with your current watch of IHYV, with that Freudian slip, typing Lee Jong Suk instead of Lee Jong Hyuk ;D I tease. Yes, Lee Jong Hyuk is an actor that’s grown on me as I see him in more dramas. I would’ve liked him to show us a little more dimension to Commander Hwang, so that we might have seen a little more into his thoughts. That would’ve gone a long way, I think, in helping viewers reconcile his turnaround at the end 🙂

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          • LOL. That was a total slip. I really like Lee Jong Suk, his acting is terrific. Which reminds me I need to watch the next new episodes of IHYV! lol. LJH grew on me too, so I sought out his dramas and have been very pleased. I would have liked to have seen Commander Hwang show maybe an ounce of compassion for his wife, whether he loved her or not. But he was basically suckered into that marriage, right? And his father-in-law was a dangerous man to cross.

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            • That’s a great point.. I’m thinking that Commander Hwang’s cold treatment of his wife was probably his frustration acting out. I can totally see how a man would take his anger out on the woman whose father has him stuck in the grip of his power-hungry evil hands.

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              • This is precisely why I could not completely hate on Commander Hwang. I felt his struggle every step of the way. I felt he was trapped by that power-mongering father-in-law of his. Although we do not know his full history, one can probably surmise that he was coerced into marriage and/or thought it would be an advantageous marriage to some extent – which it wasn’t. Furthermore it seems his relentless search for STH was born more out of past jealousies coupled with the fact that STH was now an escaped slave AND had the royal grandson in tow! Weren’t Hwang and STH once contemporaries in the military guard together? I found myself sympathizing with Hwang throughout the drama and was particularly moved by his quiet resolution of finally letting the search and struggle go (the tight close camera shot of his face was fantastic), and his ultimate tearful break down in his wife’s lap. As an aside, his fight with STH in the water was nothing short of epic visually.

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                • Yes, I picked up on the jealousy as well.. It was as if he always felt like he was struggling to show that he *was* better than Tae Ha, like he was fighting to come out of Tae Ha’s shadow. Given that he was also dealing with massive pressure from his manipulative father-in-law, he was a man with a lot of frustration and baggage. I get that he steeled himself for the terrible mission that his father-in-law arm-twisted him into.. I just wish we had gotten more access to his internal conflicts. That, I think, would have made him more overtly sympathetic to viewers.

                  I did find his final sobbing scene on his wife’s lap rather moving this time around. On my first watch, I didn’t really understand it coz I hadn’t given his arc much thought. Blame my frivolous fixation with the schmexy of Dae Gil, heh.

                  And yes, the battle in the water was gorgeously epic!

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              • Yeah, if you think of it that way, you can find a depth to Commander Hwang’s character. I had hoped that at some point he would have cracked a teeny bit and showed a little love for her. But he really didn’t care for her at all. She was a total cipher to him.

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                • Now that we’ve been talking about Commander Hwang, I really feel like his extremely cold treatment of his wife was a whole lot of anger and frustration, misplaced onto her because it was *her* father that was the source of (almost) all his problems. I think some of his frustration also stemmed from not being able to understand her, even though she tried to speak & write to him. While I can’t expect him to love her based on the fact that theirs wasn’t a love match and he has no understanding of her, I did want to see some compassion from him, for her. But perhaps there was too much anger in him towards her father, clouding & overwhelming him.

                  How cool, that the more we talk about this, the more understanding I feel like I have, about this character! 😀

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                  • The paralell you made with Daegil’s last words to Seol-Hwa and Commander Hwang’s “turnaround” is very significant. It had not occured to me that there might be a connection and it does give us a different perspective. It makes me think of Commander Hwang as an extreme case of “Daegil” whose darkness did not allow him to see that someone loved him (his wife) that there were good things around him. Commander Hwang’s darkness though was much much darker! He rarely showed “humanity” so it was harder to see it (at least for me).

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                    • I know! What a game-changer, right?? The first time I watched Chuno, I completely missed that, but this time, I was paying closer attention, and when they put Dae Gil’s scene with Seolhwa RIGHT before Commander Hwang’s scene with his wife, it suddenly clicked for me, and what a difference it made to my understanding of his character!!

                      Definitely agree, though, that Commander Hwang didn’t show us much of his internal struggles or of his real person.

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  11. Yes, let’s ! Let’s rewatch together Lady G! (just let me finish with my Robbers re watch, but we could schedule it and watch only one episode a day or a week (so we have time to watch other dramas too, maybe have a virtual premiere party haha) I was talking about Chuno with Gumi and since she actually speaks korean! she was telling me about all these details that I had totally missed! For example, she explained to me that Daegil uses formal language, even his insults are not “unsophisticated” and they had a rich vocabulary which indicates he had an education (well. we knew that). I watched Chuno twice complete and then I’ve re watched parts of it, scenes, and there are still some dialogues I don’t fully understand. The Hulu subs were too complex and Netflix subs seem too simplified, so my plan is, re watch, and torment Gumi to explain everything I don’t understand 😀 Do you want to join me? I think Chuno is a drama very much worth the re watching and overanalyzing and yes, we can skip all the boring stuff 😀

    Kfungirl I’m still working on my super long answer to your epic review

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    • Oh, that’s a great point, that Dae Gil used formal language. I’d picked up on it, but didn’t connect it to the point that you and Gumi brought up, that it shows he’s not unsophisticated.

      Agree that good subs are imperative for this drama. I used subs from WITHS2, which were wonderfully translated by Mr X. It does get complex at times, but he manages to bring out the meaning and flavor of the dialogue really well!

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    • That’s a cool Idea Drama Fan. But I’m just having a really busy summer and I had commented on another post that I am invested in watching the 81 part monster, Jumong. lol. Plus a few other dramas. I really like Jumong so far-6 episodes in.

      I am actually trying to recruit my younger sister to watch Chuno with me. She doesn’t seem too interested in K-Drama. (Her loss I say. lol) But she’s willing to go with me to Manhattan to see ‘The Flu’ and go to Koreatown to have a meal. I dragged her to see Werewolf Boy too and she really loved it. But I need to introduce her somehow to the beauty of Jang Hyuk and Chuno would be a perfect place to start. I’m not sure if she would like the genre as much, but we’ll see.

      Interesting you brought up the subs. I watched it on Netflix. I wasn’t really paying attention to the differences in the subtitiling at that point. But then I put it on DramaFever (I do the premium membership there) (I think Hulu uses theirs, not sure) and I was scratching my head and found it hard to concentrate on the scenes when I’m trying to decipher the text. lol. But it’s a great point that you made about DaeGil’s formal language. I didn’t really pick up on it, but after reading this post I see the difference. And of course it makes sense, he’s a nobleman.

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      • An introduction to Jang Hyuk?? Chuno is THE way to go, methinks! In all that I’ve seen of Jang Hyuk so far, nothing beats his wonderful Dae Gil ❤

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        • Yes, totally agree!! Chuno is full of eye candy, but it has a memorable storyline, soundtrack and characters from every spectrum. It’s not easily forgotten. I will make her a fan yet. If not of K-Dramas, at least of JH and OJH. lol

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          • I think Chuno’s got enough merits to please your sister, especially if she’s already watched k-movies with you AND is willing to take a day trip with you for a k-movie. Kdrama conspiracy, activate! ;D

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  12. I really liked this show – which I was lead to watch because of your jang hyuk post 😉 – and I had every intention of giving a well thought out reply here. But all I can do is squee all over again at Jang Hyuk… Fantastic review though!!

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    • Lol! Yes, Jang Hyuk as badass Dae Gil can definitely have that speechless effect on you! 😉 When (if?) your thoughts come back to you, I’d love to hear more of your Chuno thoughts! ^^

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  13. Kfangirl, I notice I changed your nick to kfungirl lol! Sorry but you are fun, so it also fits 🙂

    As I told you on twitter I was just feeling nostalgic about Chuno, I had posted something along the lines of “After watching Chuno, everything seems to suck” and boom! your review came in! Wow! it definitely made my day. So, Warning! This is going to be long and spoilery

    I’ve watched Chuno more than once and I really don’t know how many times I’ve re watched some scenes. So, yeah, we could say I am a bit obsessed with it. yet, I don’t love “all of it”. I’ve read so many reviews, and I agree partly with one or another. I truly envy those who enjoyed the whole drama and found each and every storyline and character to be meaningful and awesome. I didn’t. But the parts I loved, ohhhhh they still haunt me. I won’t say much about the cinematography and music because I think your review covers this aspect beautifully and you provided exquisite captures to prove your points.

    The first time, I also hesitated before I started watching, I sort of dropped it once, came back to it after watching The Tree (my good impression of Jang Hyuk, allowed me to be more patient with the first episodes of Chuno, which IMO were a bit slow, dense and draggy, yup, despite the cinematography and the man-fest) Yup I was a tough cookie the first time around and only really got completely sunk into this until episode 10 (when Daegil finds Unnyun’s brother). Of course on second watch I appreciated those first episodes more, with the exquisite bromance between the three slave hunters, Seolwha, etc

    Daegil – The panther gaze, the smirk…(I spend 30 minutes drooling on each picture so it took me literally all day to write this) Anyway, did I fall in love with Daegil right away? No way! I totally judged him. I didn’t find “being obsessed” with a woman justification enough to turn into a “devil”. I thought he was just “sick” and in modern times would’ve suggested him to go to a psychiatrist. To me, he was a bad sick guy…and then, that darn Jang Hyuk just sold this “unhealthy obsession” to me as “love” my brain was saying no, he is wrong, he is sick, I don’t…awwwww but poor guyyyyy! he loves herrrrr and yeah! I fell down that terrible path of despair and unrequited love with Daegil. His pain was my pain. His size changing irises, were my size changing irises! So you see, it wasn’t the swagger or the smirk that sold me Daegil, it was the freaking irises! lol
    And the character only got more complex and interesting with each episode, always revealing a new aspect of himself, without betraying his true essence. He made no much sense, he was so “himself”. Like you said, I never saw the actor, always the character.

    On second watch, I also appreciated Song Tae-Ha more, although I won’t lie and pretend that I cared much about his relationship with Unnyun, but I appreciated it, as contrasted with her relationship with Daegil. I also think that O-Ji-Ho’s best scenes are when he is interacting with Jang Hyuk. I loved the chemistry between the actors and the characters.

    Regarding O Ji Ho’s and Lee Da Hae’s acting in this, I didn’t question it as much. They didn’t make me excited but I assumed that was because of their lukewarm relationship and the characters. I did love the scenes Lee Da Hae had with Jang Hyuk, specially the one where Unyunn sees him for the first time in the market, ohhhh she was very good in that one. Her eyes expressed so much.

    Oh well, Ill admit it it and save us time here! I only “cared” about Daegil, his friends and the other main characters mostly “in relation to” Daegil. But I do agree with you that, in order to truly understand the whole world of Chuno, which is actually very well constructed one must also understand the rest of the subplots.

    I also agree with your opinion on the villain. I know this actor has a lot of fans, and there were people who loved his character in Chuno, but it was hard for me to connect with him and hard to understand his transformation in the end when he was such a cold blooded killing machine. I think his interpretation was too subtle for my taste. How interesting that he was the one narrating at the beginning and the end. It certainly gives me a whole new perspective.

    The bromance awwwwwwwww!!!! the bromanes were definitely the high point in this drama! Those three slave hunters and later on, I’ve said it before I did love Daegil and Song Tae-Ha working together.

    The “crying while eating eggs” scenes sounds and looks pretty awkward out of context right? almost funny, but it is oh so amazing as you pointed out. Gumi told me about a talk show where they showed some scenes from Chuno and when this scene was shown Jang Hyuk got emotional and commented on the sadness of the scene. Awwww I supposed if we love Daegil he must love him even more! (if that is possible)

    About the closure of Daegil and Unyunn ugh!!! that is one aspect that also bugs me. The fact that they never really talked!!! I know she knew he loved her and that his harsh words towards her were not “real”. If she didn’t perceive it (which I think she did) “Slanted ear” told her very clearly that he had been looking for her obsessively. But I wanted a scene where Daegil also knew that she had not forgotten him, even if they weren’t going to be together, I wanted my poor Daegil to know this. Although I guess, it would’ve served no real purpose. Also, he was so much smarter than the rest of the character, that he probably just “knew”. But he also knew that today, they weren’t the same people as before. Wasn’t there a conversation where she wanted to talk to him and he said something like “You don’t owe me anything”? I don’t know, I need to re watch but that was I believed, the closest the got to a “closure”

    On the other hand, like you say, this was not a romance. It was about much bigger things. And that is why, on second watch I also appreciate the ending much better. I loved Daegil and Tae-Ha coming full circle, learning from each other. Daegil feeling hope again and dying for it.

    Ahhhh I made myself cry again. Despite its flaws and endless characters I couldn’t connect to, I loooooooove what I love about this drama 🙂

    Thank you thank you thank you for your review. Awesome as always!

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    • Gaahhhh sorry for all the typos. It is late and I must dehydrated from all the drooling caused by the panther gaze, and the smirk and the irises :p Anyway I meant to say that “Daegil makes so much sense” (instead I wrote, “no much sense”) Anyway, thank you again! Btw, I don’t know why I forgot about Seolwha! I felt every one of her emotions too. Two of my favorite scenes involve her. One is when he is bring on the market, what she tells our boys afterwards “I saw a man crying like I’ve never seen before. It made me happy, to see a man capable of crying like that for love. But it made me sad to think that no one will ever cry like that for me” Wow! that…I cried. Then, the scene when Daegil is drunk and uses her as a blanket :p I found it super sexy! Him hugging her so tightly against his body and her, resisting only a little and then letting him squeeze as much as he pleased, oh my…hot! and at the same time sad. He was so depressed and in such need for lurrrve “Kiddo, stay put, it’s warm. Life is so wretched…wherever you go, it’s still the same”. Ok, I’ll shut up now 😀 or I could go on forever.

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      • Wow, Drama Fan! You weren’t kidding about having LOT of thoughts after the review! I love it! 😀

        I totally agree that Chuno is a drama that bears re-watching. It was only on my 2nd watch that I began to appreciate Chuno as a whole, where before, I was more fixated with badass, sexy shirtless boys and their related storylines. Well, ok. I was fixated mostly with ONE badass, sexy shirtless boy and his related storylines. *cough* Unlike you, I was very quickly smitten with Dae Gil.. By the end of episode 1, I was completely mesmerized.

        On my second watch, though, I began to pick up on so many more things, and I began to really see, with new eyes, almost, what a masterpiece Chuno is.

        And yes, I love, LOVED the bromance, particularly with Dae Gil, Gen Choi & Wang Son. But I also appreciated the bromantic turn between Dae Gil & Tae Ha.

        You know, I thought about what you said, about wanting Eonnyeon to say something to Dae Gil to let him know that she had not forgotten him. While that would have been comforting for the fans, I actually think that it might have diluted the impact on us, of the unconditional nature of Dae Gil’s love.

        As it stands, without that affirmation from Eonnyeon, we see that Dae Gil continues to love Eonnyeon, no matter what. Even though she has married someone else, he loves her, because he does not need to be with her to love her. Even though she has changed her name, he loves her, because he doesn’t care what name she uses. And I like to think that, *even if* she no longer has feelings for him, that he would *still* love her, because his love is that unconditional that he doesn’t need his love to be reciprocated in order for him to give it.

        And yes! I was swooning into a puddle when Dae Gil held Seolhwa close to himself. That man is so hawt, even when he’s drunk and depressed. That sounds so wrong, but it is what it is. Dae Gil is one hawt man 😛

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        • ahhh I loved Daegil&Seolhwa. The first time he called her ‘kiddo’, i was literally screaming opppaaaaaaa!!! Well, oppa in a literal sense, because he did look like a big brother looking at his little sister. And omg, when Daegil appeared like a prince charming with a coin between his sexy lips, I thought I’m gonna faint I couldn’t even breathe.

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          • aww Gumi! I loved that scene where he rescued her from the clutches of the evil dance troupe! LOL

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            • Aw, YEAH! In the moment, you TOTALLY understand why she’d fly into Dae Gil with a tacklehug! And I LOVE how he just lies there, letting her have her moment for a bit, while scrunching up his face like an uncomfortable adult dealing with the unfamiliar affection of a child. Squee! ❤

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              • I admit I at first found Seol-hwa annoying, but then she really grew on me. She’s a pitiful character, much like Eponine in Les Miserables, you can’t help but love her either. In ways she was like the boys, tough, street smart. And a survivor. I can imagine at the end she will find her way back to them in their new home and they will all live there like a happy little family. Then maybe she will consider Wang-Son. haha.

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                • Oh! I LOVE how you imagine the end, with Seolhwa seeking out the boys and sticking with them. It makes total sense. After all, they’re family ^^ And I bet there would be lots of comic hijinks as Wang Son tries to flirt with her, LOL! 😄

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                  • I think eventually Wang Son will mature. And sooner than later considering all they went through and the loss of their ‘leader’ Daegil, But he’ll always be the doofy, fun-loving guy. I’m sure she would fall for him eventually. 😀 And of course I want General Choi to get the best of the best too. I really loved his character. At some point in your review or a comment you compared them to a family, Choi is the mother, Daegil the father, and Wang Son the…bratty son! lol. That was a great comparison. I agree. I can picture Choi finding a strong, yet very feminine woman, maybe someone good with weapons too, like his equal. 🙂

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                    • Aw, YAY, that you like the family analogy bit, coz I was supremely tickled when that thought occurred to me. I was literally giggling while typing that section! 😄

                      Y’know, talking about what happens to our characters, I’m reminded of my fantasy drama that I wrote about in my Liebster post. I answered 2 questions about what drama I’d like to see made, and in the first, I talked about it just as a concept, and in the later question, I fleshed it out a bit. I got a real kick out of imagining the scenarios, & I thought you might get a bit of a kick out of reading it, since we’ve been talking about our Chuno friends and what happens after ^^ You can check it out here: https://thefangirlverdict.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/a-liebster-award-kinda/

                      It’s a little long, so I think it’s best to just use “Jang Hyuk” or “Chuno” as a search term to get you to the relevant sections! ^^ Oh, and there’s a small bit on Seolhwa too, so after you read the more robust scenario, do a search for “Seolhwa” coz it’s only in the comments that I mention her arc ^^

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                • This is such a coincidence! Gumi and I were having a conversation about this. I was thinking of how sad Seolwha was left, and how sad Wang-Son and General Choi must’ve been without Daegil. They were a threesome, and they complemented each other so well. So Gumi speculated whether Seolwha even went back to them and told them how Daegil died or not. I said “I want to believe she did and they stayed together, and with time I wish she paid attention to Wang-Son”. Exactly the same thing lol! I do expect that she let sometime pass before that though, because in my mind, Seol-Wha did love Dae-Gil deeply, even though she was young, and initially saw him as a hero, her savior, and her love was one-sided, but still, his last words, and their chemistry makes me entertain this idea of them as a couple, in another life :p. I wouldn’t want her to forget him so fast (or ever). Part of me did find her irritating at times, but there were moments when I totally shipped them and rooted for her.

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                  • What a coincidence indeed! 😀 I love how we’re all imagining that outcome, where Seolhwa is reunited with Gen Choi and Wang Son – those 3 would be so cute together.. The only thing that would make it better is if Dae Gil could be with them too :’)

                    Interesting that you brought up shipping Seolhwa with Dae Gil sometimes.. I didn’t.. I just enjoyed their interactions together and I liked how Dae Gil treated her like a younger sister, almost. I guess I just saw how deeply his heart was for Eonnyeon and didn’t think that he would be able to soon love another woman. Though I can imagine Dae Gil and Seolhwa potentially being quite a cute couple, now that you mention it!

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                  • It’s quite obvious after he lost his love (my good ness the woman has 2 names and I forget them both! Sort of. lol) Daegil was a broken, defeated, man. He was like a zombie at times. 😦 In the end he sprang back to life to help the cause and save the baby prince. Going down fighting. Ultimately helping to reshape a nation.

                    Daegil is unforgettable. But I’m sure Seolwha would find her way back to the boys again and they would take her in, with lots of grumbling and mumbling, but ultimately love. She’s a beautiful young woman all alone, I could def. imagine General Choi say what kind of men would they be to leave her out in the cold like that? Daegil would have kept her on. 😀

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  14. May I make Chuno MV recommendation? You might have already seen this, but

    It’s one of my favorite MVs of Chuno. It’s not emotionally intense nor does it have superb actions scenes, but….. awww i just luvvvv those boys (plus Seolhwa) togetherrrrr
    and shameless self-recommendation of my own MV 😛 it’s very, very Daegil-centered, lol

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    • Thanks for sharing these, Gumi! I enjoyed them both! The first one, for all the wonderful moments featuring our boys together, and the second, for all the Dae Gil!

      I know exactly why I chose not to feature these vids, even though I came across them while poking around youtube.. The first one, coz I was looking for vids using an OST track, and the music didn’t sound familiar to me. And the second one, because I already had several HD vids shortlisted that used the exact same track from the OST, and I just wanted more variety in the music in the sampling of vids posted. But, I can totally see why these 2 vids are worth the watch – I found myself grinning through the first, and melting a little, at the second 😉

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    • Ye! These were very great, Gumi! I really liked yours. That sound track gets your blood pumping, doesn’t it? LOL. I’m working on a fan-vid for Song Taeha right now. He needs more fangirling love on Youtube. 🙂

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  15. Chuno… why am I feeling oddly nostalgic here? Probably because it was one of the last big ‘community watches’ before the drama community of those days dispersed to various parts of the internets, many moving on to other things. E.g the Soompi thread had over 270 pages when the drama ended. o_0 Frantic live re-capping, intelligent discussions, interesting historical anecdotes, wonderful and insightful posts, some goodnatured snarking and no shipping wars… as far as I can remember. 🙂 Good times, I sorta miss them…

    Yes, definitely a drama worth watching, warts and all, perferably in glorious HD. Nothing intelligent to add. You said it all. Although I wasn’t quite that taken with Dae Gil’s shirtless hawtness. For some odd reason abs don’t do much for me. Great acting on the other hand…. 😀 Hyukie was great in the role though.

    I loved the OST then and love it now. I kept playing it on a loop for weeks.

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    • Aw, the community Chuno experience sounds way awesome! Especially the frantic live recapping & intelligent discussions – a heady combination, in my opinion! ^^

      I guess I’ve got a strong shallow streak – the abs, pecs, & all that muscle & sinew had my attention for sure! ;D I think what made it actually swoon-worthy and addictive for me, though, was the fact that it felt like all the muscle & fight prowess was treated in a fairly matter-of-fact and offhanded manner. It didn’t feel like JH was walking around showing off.. It felt like he was just.. walking around like he’s supposed to, and – oh yeah, he happens to be sinewy and extremely skilled at the fighting. No biggie. *shrug* I think it was the off-handedness that really got me 😛

      And yes, the OST is just magnificent. Completely immersive. Love it! ❤

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      • I totally agree about the offhandedness. The only thing that was deliberate was General Choi bathing and the innkeepers watching and giggling. Otherwise, these guys were just being themselves, running and fighting and running again…this drama made me exhausted just watching them. There was no requisite ‘hang my head down in the hot shower’ scene. lol.

        Yep, I have a K-Drama conspiracy plan for my sis! lol

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        • Lol! Good point! There was no angsty shower scene! Granted, there were no hot showers in their world, but that didn’t stop TPM from having an angsty bathing scene at the riverbank! 😄 I like that the one gratuitous bathing scene Chuno had was done in such a tongue-in-cheek manner ^^

          We’re cheering you on in your kdrama conspiracy plan, Lady G!! One more potential k-fan in our midst, bwahaha! ;D

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      • Im on that “shallow streak” boat with you 😀 The way it works for me, I fall in love with a character and then I fall in “lust” :p but when I do, I get “lost” in it lol! Yeah thats why, second watch of Chuno was oh so much more enjoyable for me. I feel the third will be even better (now that I have the intention of “understanding” things on top of feeling and lusting) Ill really reallyyy realllly try to see past the choco abs and loveliness and sexiness (brain! please cooperate this time)

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        • Lol! I can see why this might be an uphill task for you, especially given how much schmexy there is on the screen! 😄 It can be done though – I speak from experience, heh.

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      • Yup, there is something special in TV community experiences. I guess people do it in twitter and tumblr these days. Not as engeaging, me thinks.

        I didn’t feel that the abstactness in Chuno was particularly gratuitous either. It was just part of what these guys are. And the General Choi bathing scene was totally done with tongue in the cheek. 😉 I’ve never been all that moved by ‘nekkidness’, though I must confess I do have a ‘thing’ for arms. Mmmmmm…. Now, give me men in suits or u-nee-forms and I’m toast. 😄

        Btw. did you watch CitC yet? That OST is awesome as well.

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        • Oh, I’m quite partial to men in suits & uniforms too!! Hur. Biceps, triceps, abs, pecs.. AND suits & uniforms? I’ve got SO many fangirl distractions, don’t I? 😛

          Conspiracy in the Court is on my watch list – I’m planning to get started on that after I finish White Christmas ^^ Which should be soon-ish, since I’m halfway through & it’s only 8 eps!

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          • I’m going to add Conspiracy in the Court to my drama watch list. (It’s already a mile long now!) I love Lee Chun Hee, he’s so wonderful in the new Cyrano Dating Agency.

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            • I love sageuk and I’ve heard so many good things about Conspiracy in the Court. I had it on my mental list so I’ll also add it to my written list and try to find it 🙂

              Jumong is also on my list, again, for the good reviews, but that one is scary because of the length.

              Sageuk is also what my mom is more keen on watching, and it is something we share, because besides enjoying the stories and characters we have fun looking up historical facts on the web. It only adds to the fun 🙂

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              • I wasn’t too into Sageuk, even though I love history. But watching Chuno, Faith, and Tree with Deep Roots changed my mind. So while it’s not the first type of drama I look for, when I come across a good one I will watch them. That’s cool you can share that love with your mom. 🙂

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                • Oh! have you considered watching The Great Queen Seondeok? That’s the one that got me into this sageuk craze. I know you have a million on your list but consider this one. It is among my top 5 series in general (only surpassed in my heart by Chuno and The Tree)

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                • Your approach to sageuk is just like mine! I don’t seek them out or anything, but now, I get really interested if there’s a good one ^^ I’m more partial to the shorter ones though, like Tree, Chuno & TPM. 🙂

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                  • I’m ready to start the 14th episode of Jumong and I love it! So far there’s no drag, it’s like watching Chuno. In fact I think Chuno is the only comparable Sageuk to this one in terms of story, production, action sequences and heart rending scenes. I spent last night in tears by ep. 12 and 13. lol. If I can tackle this 81 part monster, then I can get to watching the funny, fluffy, modern day 50 part dramas with no problem.(Hopefully! lol)

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                    • Giggle. I find your reasoning so cute! I actually find the 50+ ep weekend dramas much easier to watch than the long sageuks! For sure, if you can watch a long sageuk, a 50-parter weekend drama would be no problem for you! ;D

                      Might I recommend Ojakgyo Brothers as a good weekend drama to start with? It’s a really easy, fun. heartwarming watch, with lots of romance going on at any one time coz we have 4 brothers to do all the romancing 😉

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              • It’s funny that you’re intimidated by the length of Jumong, Drama Fan! After all, you finished Queen Seon Duk – what’s another 20 eps, in the grand scheme of things? Lol 😉

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                • Well, 20 episodes is a whole “regular length” series 😉 You are right! but QSD was my first sageuk so I didnt know better. I used to watch telenovelas before (spanish soap operas) which are at least 80 episodes each (and of much inferior quality) so at the beginning, QSD didnt seem too long! But I’ve become spoiled fast 😀 Also, for some reason I got into QSD and I never felt the length (I watched it twice) but others, I’ve had to drop in the middle. I love sageuk but Im aware of the fact that the majority of them can be draggy, dense, slow, etc so now I try to be more careful with my choices, since in general I dislike leaving things unfinished. Also, if they are too good, it means I will get super hooked and I will want to watch them all in one weekend, and that is really not possible with sageuk :p I know me and my mom, we don’t have a sense of self control, will power. etc

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                  • Yes, many long sageuks get draggy, and it’s rare to be able to say that a long sageuk isn’t.. I’m not partial to long sageuks myself, and plus, I was rather slow to embrace sageuks to begin with.. I’m now perfectly happy to watch the shorter ones though. Those tend to have higher production values and a tighter story.. And I love me a beautifully made, colorful, scenic sageuk with a good story. I loved TPM for those reasons, and I think Tree is fantastic too ^^

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            • Yay! More people on the CitC train! I won’t be watching alone! ;D And yes, I do like Lee Chun Hee too. I rather enjoyed his character in Smile, You. Cyrano’s on my list too – that ever-growing monster list of shows I want to check out! 😄

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              • I haven’t seen Smile, you. But I watched an older 2005 drama called ‘Only You’ and he was like the near perfect 2nd male lead. I have 2 more eps. to go but I think I totally rooted for him the whole way through already. In Cyrano DA he’s the near perfect shady 2nd male lead. I love his eyes, they are so intense.

                Like

                • Smile, You is a fairly cute weekend drama, 45 eps. He plays a supporting character who’s a bit spoilt and a bit of a loudmouth, but hilarious while he’s at it, and of course, he has a growth arc. PLUS, he married his co-star Jeon Hye Jin too, in real life, who played his love interest. How cute is that, that reel got real?? 😀

                  I haven’t watched Only You.. Maybe I’ll get around to it. Someday.. 😛

                  Like

  16. Your magnificent HD captures look even more magnificent on my laptop!

    Does anybody know where the song “Lost Child” can be downloaded? Unfortunately, the OST available in iTunes does not include that song. Btw, that OST is so wonderful. I listen to it and all the feelings I had watching the series come back (therefore, it is tough to it in the office and hold back the tears lol)

    I can’t imagine how great it must’ve been to watch this show live.

    Like

    • Aw yeah, the captures look wayyy better on my Mac than my PC, so the computer does make a difference! (I love you, Mac)

      You know, I hadn’t noticed that Lost Child wasn’t on my OST.. and I haven’t seen it available yet, anywhere else. Thankfully, we have youtube 😉

      Like

    • I saw you guys comment and realized I didn’t have it either, so I went ahead and downloaded it from my Melon account. Drama Fan, I’ll send it to your email. Kfangurl, do you also want it?

      Like

      • Oh, that would be fantastic, thanks Gumi! You are so sweet! 😀 My email addy’s the same as what I listed on my contact page: kfangurl [at] gmail [dot] com. Kamsahamnida, chingu-ya! ^^

        Like

  17. Pingback: [Gumi Fan MV] Daegil&Sulhwa_Fox Rain | Stuck on Hyuk

  18. What. The. Hell…? This K-Drama thing makes my head explode.

    I came here via Twitter, as your name popped up that suggestion box thing of people to follow. I kind of assumed from your name that it was because I also follow Raine0211 and, lo and behold, it was!

    I’ve never actually watched K-Drama, and in fact I’d never even heard of it until I met Raine online and took a look at her blog. To be honest, it’s one of those genres that my staid old mind can’t quite grasp. It’s kind of like the paranormal romance genre of books – in my head I imagine it to be headless Victorian ghosts trying to woo invisible poltergeists.

    Despite that, I was very impressed with this review. It’s incredibly long, passionate, and the pictures almost made my Internet connection cry. Mind you, the sight of so many strapping men in tears made me feel a bit unsettled.

    Viva la K-Drama!

    Like

    • Lol! Pleased to make your acquaintance, Michael-who-has-never-watched-a-kdrama! 😉

      Given how bizarre your mental picture is, of kdrama, I am impressed that you read this monstrously long review! 😄 Let me assure you that kdrama isn’t as crazy as it might appear.. I enjoy the format of the mini-series because it affords a lot more room for fleshing out characters, relationships and story arcs compared to a 90 minute movie.

      Even though there are a good many kdramas that I wouldn’t recommend, I’m happy to say that there is a healthy number of kdramas that would appeal to a male audience. Chuno is one of those dramas (& I assure you, the men don’t cry as much as you might think from skimming my screenshots!), but if historicals isn’t your thing, I would highly recommend Bridal Mask. It’s set during the Japanese Occupation and follows one man’s journey from anti-hero to hero. Gripping, well-paced and with some amazing performances from its actors, Bridal Mask is at once a thought-provoking social commentary on nationalism and the Japanese Occupation in Korea, as well as an extremely engaging origin story of a hero.

      If you enjoy shows that make you think, Nine is a great one to check out, coz it’s an excellently executed time travel tale. Great attention to detail and a plot that keeps you on your toes practically the whole time ^^

      Like

  19. I was just thinking today, I would have loved to see more of Daegil’s life as a Noble. How he grew up and met Eunnyeon (am I even spelling this right? Hye Won? lol) His first reaction to her, them growing up together. The first time he literally fell in love with her and so on. They touched on it. All his cute little tricks with the stone and shoes and sneaking around the laundry. The requisite Piggy Back ride. It would have made a great contrast against the street-fighting, cynical Daegil.

    Like I said in another comment, would love to read this story as a book! It could be epic length, like this Japanese book I’m reading- Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa. The English translation I have is nearly a 1000 pages. That’s been made into a movie and J-Drama I think. I’m a bit of J-Drama girl too, but they don’t thrill me as much K-Dramas. Some are too wacky and lack depth, and they are kind of cheap with the romance, Even though you know it’s there. But I have my favorites.

    Like

    • Oh, that would make a great prequel to Chuno! Wow, we’ve fleshed out our sequel, and now you’re moving on to writing the prequel! 😄 But yes, I can totally see how this story would make an epic book, painting the details that we didn’t get to see onscreen!

      I’m with you on the J-dramas.. I watch a couple of them on the side, but I definitely prefer my kdramas to the J-dramas. I love the way they interpret manga in J-dramas, so Hana Kimi is one of my favorite J-dramas. Aside from the lighter, campy ones, I did genuinely like 1 Litre of Tears. I haven’t seen enough J-dramas to really able to comment much though ^^

      Like

      • I have an online friend who recommended J-Dramas with Hiro Mishushima. He’s done some great ones. I have 3 favorite J-actors so far-Hiro, Hayami Mokomichi, and Abe Hiroshi. I tend to like the mystery-crime-action genre more when I watch the J-Dramas. Then I don’t feel so bad when the romance is missing. LOL. I will have to check out 1 Litre of Tears.

        Like

        • Oh, I haven’t actually watched any crime dramas among the J-dramas.. I’ve mostly checked out manga adaptations (coz the Japanese do those SO well!), and others that come highly recommended. Romance-wise, I thought Zenkai Girl was rather cute.. Proposal Daisakusen was also a pretty nice watch. 1 Litre of Tears does make you cry (as the title so aptly suggest) but it’s completely moving and it’s based on a true story. I was surprised by how much I like it. No wonder it’s considered a J-drama classic. If you like to explore some J-dramas on the side, that’s one that you should consider checking out ^^

          Like

          • I don’t read the actual mangas, but my two favorite Manga based I’ve seen are Absolute Boyfriend and Meichan’s Butler. I would love to see a K-Drama version of Absolute Boyfriend, but they don’t seem to favor robots like the Japanese. LOL. There was a Taiwanese drama of the same story, but I couldn’t get past that they used a Korean lead actress then had to badly dub in her Taiwanese. Didn’t see the purpose to that. But anyway, yeah, I would definitely think the Japanese would rock the Manga adaptations! 😀 Thanks for the suggestions.

            I saw a Chuno graphic novel on Ebay, but it is really just pictures from the movie with Korean text bubbles. I thought someone had literally adapted and drew it all in Manga or GN form. That would be awesome.

            Like

            • Oh, I liked Absolute Boyfriend too! That was cute ^^ But yeah, I didn’t like that the Taiwanese version used Gu Hye Sun. Besides the dubbing issue (which I completely agree is unnecessary and distracting), she’s not even a great actress, so I fail to see the point >.<

              I really liked the J-version of BOF too.. Hana Yori Dango was so much better than BOF. I even watched the second season of it, just coz I enjoyed the first season so much.

              That Chuno graphic novel sounds like a gimmick made to cash in on the drama's popularity – I can see a big fan willing to buy that. But, not very satisfying for reading purposes, I'd imagine! 😄

              Like

              • Actually there is a real hand drawn comic book version of Chuno out there. But it’s in Korean. I would love to have one translated in English!

                You’re right, there was no point to that casting. I don’t think Gu Hye Sun is a great actress either. I know everybody loves BOF, but I had trouble watching it because of her. Seeing all those guys falling over themselves for her. Ughh! It annoyed me. :p (Rant over! lol)

                I started watching the J-Version of BOF a while back, I need to get back to it, I really liked it! I have to remember where I left off because it was on Dramacrazy which shut down. :<

                Like

                • The comic exists?? Wow, I am really impressed by the amount of Chuno love out there. Gooo Dae Gil! 😀

                  Ugh, BOF! I watched it when the whole frenzy was on, and got swept up in the irrational enjoyment. For some inexplicable reason, I found KHJ’s Ji Hoo really sweet and quite swoony. On a (much later) re-watch attempt, I found it utterly terrible!! And I really wondered why I ever found Ji Hoo swoony in the first place! 😄 No loss if you never ever watch BOF, imo! >.<

                  The J-version, however, is quite delightful – you should totally get back to it! (RIP, Dramacrazy *bows*)

                  Like

  20. Ahh! Chuno! For some reasons that drama just didn’t do it for me :/ I think that watching dramas is all about being in the right mood at the right time… I remember hearing all sort of praises for Chuno and really liking the sweeping OST so I gave it a try. It is well done and gorgeous for sure, but at the time I just felt like watching something else. I did tune it for at least half of it, but eventually new dramas just keep on appearing and time just slip away before I even know it… Ah well!

    Like

    • Oh, you’re absolutely right, mawiie!! Mood is SO much of the equation!! Mood has taken me from hate to love, AND from love to hate, upon giving some dramas second chances.

      If/when the right mood strikes, I hope you give Chuno another chance. I liked it both watches, but appreciated it much more on the second watch 🙂 It’s not perfect, but it is, in many ways, a masterpiece ^^

      Like

  21. I’ve been making Fan Videos for years, but I made my first K-Drama fanvid for Chuno and Lee Dae Gil! It’s been a long time since I even made a fan-vid. I love video editing. I had to find clips on youtube to make this. So the picture quality varies. Sorry.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d post it here on this awesome review! I plan to make one for Song Tae Ha next of course. 😀

    Like

    • Ooh, nice work, Lady G!! Thanks for sharing! I can only imagine how much work it took, to get clips off YT.. Maybe next time you could consider working off the actual HD files? ^^

      Btw, it just occurred to me that we were talking about JH & kissing, and.. have you seen the deleted bed scene he did with Lee Da Hae in Iris 2? If you haven’t, just click on my JH love confession post (link is in the JH section of this review), scroll to the end, and follow the link & instructions I posted. He is so, SOOOO HAWT in it, I can’t even describe it. U hafta see if for yourself! *stifles swoon*

      Like

      • Oh I saw that scene from your blog. yowza yowza yowza!! lol.

        Thanks for the comment on the video. 🙂 It’s actually not so hard to find the clips, I can tell right away if a clip or video will work or not.

        I unfortunately don’t own the DVDs and I think i would have been more intimidated to use the HD files because I didn’t exactly know which clips I wanted or which episodes to use. It was easier with the YT clips. But, an HD video would have definitely looked prettier. 🙂 I remember the first days of Youtube, all the early vids had to be less than an 100 MBs, so that was hard to stick to. So glad it’s changed.

        Like

        • Yowza is about right!! I have watched that clip more than several times, and I hafta say, my jaw drops each time.. He’s just soooo shmexy in it! RAWR~~

          Oh, I totally agree, I am so happy that YT now allows HD vids! It makes a huge difference! I get what you mean about having to look harder for clips if you had the HD files.. When I’m searching for a particular screenshot and I’m not sure exactly where in the show it happens, it can be a very frustrating game of hide and seek! >.< More than 20 hours of footage.. where is it?!? Lol. So maybe working off YT is a good solution for you, for now ^^

          Like

  22. thank you so much for this review! even several years after watching Chuno, I still find myself reflecting on it and its meaning. your post was so detailed and insightful. i really appreciate all of the hard work it must have taken to deconstruct such a complex and powerful drama. your words are extremely tasteful and do justice to what i consider such a *sacred* story. i think that even though Chuno has its flaws, it’s really a work of art. again thank you for posting this- i’m really glad i found your review (more like character analysis/commentary on life/debriefing session for inspired but slightly traumatized Chuno fans! xx

    Like

    • Aw! Thanks Allison! And welcome to the blog!!! Your comment made me blush, giggle AND swell up with satisfaction 😛 I’m so glad you enjoyed the review.. Chuno really IS a work of art; a masterpiece that deserves all the accolades. I’m really glad I gave it a second watch, because I’ve come to appreciate it SO much more.

      This is one of those rare dramas that actually gets better on the rewatch.. There’s just SO much meat to it that it’s virtually impossible to appreciate it all on the first watch. Such thought-provoking themes, brought to life by such committed actors, delivered with such glorious cinematography. Simply magnificent! ❤

      Like

  23. Pingback: A Passing Existential Question of the Blogging Kind | The Fangirl Verdict

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  26. Great review, congratz. This drama is a masterpiece, I loved it! It’s one of the best that I saw, I cried for the poor Dae Gil, Jang Hyun is a very good actor! I have a question…Where do you saw the episode 24? In the episode that I downloaded is missed this part (http://i1341.photobucket.com/albums/o756/kfangurl/Chuno/Chuno167_zps76e7c594.png / http://i1341.photobucket.com/albums/o756/kfangurl/Chuno/Chuno166_zps42c19daa.png). I’d like see it very much *^* Thanks you very much in advance for reply. Happy new year 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks Sweet Chan, & welcome to the blog! 🙂

      Yes indeed, Chuno truly is a masterpiece, and Jang Hyuk is stellar in it. I honestly think this might be his most iconic role to date. As for the epilogue with Gen Choi and Wang Son, it happens after the final shot of Dae Gil where he air-shoots up at the sun. It’s only a few seconds long, and I can see how it might’ve gotten cut from various sources since it happens after the final shot of Dae Gil. I got my video here – hope that helps you!

      Like

      • Finally I saw it, thank you!! ^^
        Lee Dae Gil I think is a icon for many girls!! He is very charming!

        Like

        • Oh, great that you managed to see it! Even though it’s just a few quick seconds, isn’t it just so gratifying to see the 2 of them still happy and goofing around together, even while tending the land that Dae Gil bought for them? And yes, Dae Gil is just super alluring. Jang Hyuk really made him come alive in such a glorious, sexy, swaggery way. I don’t think anyone could’ve played Dae Gil, to be honest. ^.~

          Like

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  31. LOL my roommates and I have been looking for Han Jung Soo Chuno pics and I landed on your blog. 😀

    Like

    • Tee hee! And I do believe you girls found at least a little of what you were looking for? Coz I did put some very nice Han Jung Soo Chuno pix in here 😉 Ahhh. General Choi. Sweet, serious man.

      Like

  32. Hallo. I don’t even remember what I was googling for, but somehow I ended up in this review. I hadn’t seen a kdrama before, but I like historical and martial arts films, so I thought I would give it a try. 48 hours later here I am, totally overwhelmed and stunned, having gone through every possible and impossible human emotion. Quite a trip, thank you so much.
    I do have a couple of questions. Was it the minister that sent the female assassin? And why?
    What does “奴婢” mean?

    Anyway, loved it. Loved the rebel slave fraktion subplot (and that song they were playing everytime there was some shooting) but I fast forwarded at the in keepers’ scenes.

    The main character’s journey from innocent idealist to disillusioned cynic to utter darkness to coming to terms with life is just undescribable. I can’t find words. I’m still very shaken (my poor family)!
    Thanks again!

    Like

    • Hi there, Yllejord!! I apologize for my laggy response. I’ve been away on an intense work trip and am now just getting back up to speed on everything. ^^

      Wow, I’m so glad you decided to give Chuno a chance – it’s quite the drama experience, isn’t it?? I love it, and feel that it’s a show that invites deeper understanding the more one watches it. I appreciated it so much more on my second watch compared to my first.

      To answer your questions, it wasn’t the minister who sent the female assassin, but the bridegroom from whom Hye Won (Unnyeon) ran away. He was deeply insulted by her desertion, and wanted “justice,” basically.

      奴婢 is pronounced “nu bi” and the 2 characters together mean “slave.” However, in practice, 奴 was used to refer to male slaves and 婢 was used to refer to female slaves. When Chobok and Eopbok kiss, their cheeks together read 奴婢, which I felt was a rather poetic statement.

      I’m so glad you decided to give Chuno a chance – Jang Hyuk is amazing in the role. If you’d like to explore another Korean historical/martial arts drama, another one that I highly recommend is Tree With Deep Roots. It’s also starring Jang Hyuk, and is a dramatic interpretation of how the Korean letters – Hangul – came to be. Fascinating stuff, and extremely illuminating, in my opinion 🙂

      Like

      • Thank you for your answer and THANK YOU, oh totally unknown person on the internet, for this wonderful review that introduced my humble self to an intence experience I never expected to get out of pop culture.

        I have now watched it a second time… I came down with this mild obsession, it seems. I thought it would be easier now, but no, my soul was through the grinder again.

        Lady assassin: yes, of course, it was the abandoned husband who sent her. My brain was not functioning when I wrote the previous post. Btw, I found that character totally irrelevant in every possible way.
        Same with that elder gaesang-younger gaesang rivalry. That never actually payed off, did it?

        Seul Hwa: when she appeared I was like ”oh no, not another Happy Harlot with a Heart of Gold” but boy, was I wrong! I love her to pieces. I adore her every molecule. Even though she did interrupt what we were all desperate, DYING to watch: the interraction between Dae Gil and Hye Won. Not once, but TWICE. I wanted to kick her a little bit at that moment. Now we’ll never know what Hye Won was going to say to Dae Gil that morning in the mountain village. That sort of sucks.

        Wang Son: I surprised my self by finding him adorable in stead of irritating and annoying. I don’t recognize myself.

        General Choi: Loved that he was always reading a book. Books were not cheap back then, I guess, and our boys worked for practically peanuts. They were wearing rags and lived on millet and rice, but he obviously made buying books a priority? Awww.
        And, he decided to finally join the slave hunting gang because he has this huge crush on Dae Gil, right? It can’t be only me that sees that, can it?

        Han Seom and the court lady were so cute together, I loved that she was tiny and he was huge. They, um, sort of remind of me and my partner *blushes*

        As I mentioned before, I was moved by the slave rebelion piece. I sometimes thought that they were depicted as caricatures, but the deep, unfathomed tragedy shown through… my heart was clenched every time they were on screen. And I related so much with their talk about hope, revolution, changing society, making a better life. Struggling with the idea of yangbans being people.
        ’’If we become yangbans and they become our slaves, then nothing’s changed’’: goosebumbs.
        ’’Does the king s**t?’’
        ’’Then our children and their children will have to continue’’
        Then the guy they all believed in and put their hopes on was a simple provocateur and that did hurt. A. Lot.

        The scene that went straight to my heart and carved itself there (in this show that is MADE of memorable, unforgettable scenes!) is Cho Bok and Eop Bok’s dialog in ep23.
        Eop Bok is describing all the lovely things they could do if they just ran away; every word was tearing at my heart, while in my head I was repeating over and over ’’but who will change the world, who will change the world, who will change…?’’
        And then… and then she goes ’’No. Who is going to change the world, then?’’
        I screamed right out at the top of my voice (and woke everyone up, because it was early in the morning)
        And he says ’’thank you for saying that’’. I swear I was laughing and crying uncontrollably for at least 10 min straight. That was a special, magnificent moment for me, there.
        (I cried a little bucket while typing this. I get so darn emotional just by thinking about that scene)

        The thing that hit me (really hard) the second time, was how simple Dae Gil’s dream was. The lad wished neither for a fancy carreer in politics, nor to rule nations, nor to be admired by thousands, go down in history, Fight Evil, get filthy rich. ALL he wanted was a life, a home, with his girlfriend. That’s IT. The fact that such a simple thing, the most natural, that shouldn’t ever be any kind of issue, caused so much pain and suffering, makes absolutely clear how twisted, rotten and totally corrupted their world was. No wonder Dae Gil became so desillusuined, pessimistic and cynical, always going on about how sh**ty this world is.
        But wait, as if that wasn’t mindblowing and heartbreaking enough, there is more to it.
        I read this interview by the director, he seems to have made the connection with our modern world, LGBTQ rights in particular, if I’m not mistaken. That shook me profoundly. We actually live in a similar world. Relationships like this, that should end in simple, everyday happiness, end up in misery and tragedy as we speak, because of society’s seemingly unbreakable rules.

        I already loved the director (and writer) for
        1. bringing General Choi and Wang Son back to life (I never dreamt I would see such a shamelessly illogical, mount-Vesuvius-crater-sized plot-hole and actually be ecstatic happy about it!!! what has this show done to me?) and
        2. for the imaginary-arrow-to-the sun thing.
        But those words of his made me love him ten times more.

        Another thing that I totally missed the first time but was five kinds of obvious the second, was the way Dae Gil imitated Cheon Ji Ho’s (and the mountain village chiftain’s and perhaps the butcher-monk’s too, I didn’t really notice) mannerisms. He’s allmost an exact copy. Which is not so strange, the guy was a major father figure for our lad, when he was lost and scared and abandoned in the street.
        I like that the makers of the show didn’t feel like they had to spell everything out, but were kind enough to let us fill in the gaps ourselves. They did try to provide us with all the clues so we can do the rest. The story of what happened between the fire and the first episode is actually given to us in amazing depth and detail. How awesome is that!

        Oh, and speaking of awesome: did Dae Gil went out to this horribly dangerous mission with Tae Ha, armed only with a friggin sharpened BAMBOO STICK?!?!? What the fjdfikal leoodfinrh jslifdrh???

        So, I came for the beautifully choreografed fights by the pretty, shirtless, long haired dudes and stayed for, well, about everything. But now I feel this post is getting way too long.
        Um. Seems I got a bit carried away here. I could go on and on, about the elements of initiation myths and classic Greek tragedy in the story, about all those brilliant dialogues, about Jang Hyuk’s acting, but I’ll try to harness my self. Please accept my apologies for the outrageous length of this post.

        I’ll just go to try and pluck that imaginary arrow from my bleeding heart now and then try to find a decend DVDbox that, maybe, plays in Europe?

        Next time I watch it I’m gonna figure out what that water buffalo horn thingie was all about.

        Like

        • Sorry, it’s ”gisaeng”, not ”gaesang” of course. Still struggling with all the new stuff.

          Like

        • Hi Yllejord

          I wanted to tell you that your comment made my day yesterday. I wanted to answer right away but I was at work. I am huge fan of Jang Hyuk, Chuno, and Kfangurl’s review of it 😀 So much so that I requested an alert to this post’s comments

          I get so happy when I see a new viewer write about Chuno with such appreciation. I especially love it when I get reminded of things I probably didn’t appreciate myself in the first place! I am referring to your comments about Cho Bok and Eop Bok’s dialogue. I don’t think I gave this storyline the attention it deserved, but I’m preparing to rewatch this series soon and I know, that with all the insight I got from great comments such as yours, my watching experience will be superior

          I wanted to add something about the portrayal of Daegil (here is me acting like proud mommy of my favorite actor lol) One of the scenes you describe here, was actually added by Jang Hyuk. The arrow shot to the sky was his contribution. In fact, Jang Hyuk rewrote and sometimes wrote from scratch some of his most famous lines obviously with the approval of the director and the writer. Many of the scenes between Daegil and Unnyunn were added on set, thanks to the actors and director (his vision is always what stays obviously) because on script, Daegil and Unnyun had little to no interaction after ep 10. So that scene where Daegil and Song TaeHa rescue Unnyunn together, and Daegil and Unnyun put their heads together for a moment, a moment that meant so much to us viewers, was not on the script.

          This makes me admire the writer even more, why? because instead of being petty and insisting on his view to prevail (or one could say, protective of his initial intention, which could also be very understandable), he appreciated the actor’s passion for the characters, to the point where they were living them and becoming them so, he just let them roll. Same with the director. I appreciate this director for his wonderful work in Chuno but I became a fan of his after Conspiracy of the Court, which I see as a cousin of Chuno, cause you could totally feel the director’s hand. The combination of all these talents and creative passionate people brought us something this wonderful.

          I wrote a little post with quotes of writer and director about Jang Hyuk’s portrayal of Daegil, if you are interested. Here it is http://stuckonhyuk.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/chuno-the-daegil-appreciation-post/ And I didn’t add it on that post but Oh Ji Ho who played Song TaeHa also said that he got inspired while working alongside Jang Hyuk, he said something along the lines of “I used to approach my characters, always acting within the margins of the script, Jang Hyuk worked on filling the margins” something like that which I assume means something like going beyond the script.

          It was great reading you 🙂

          Like

          • Aww thank you for your kind words, Drama Fan. Most of the time I’m just happy if people understand my english…

            And wow. Just… wow. So ιf it weren’t for Jang Hyuk’s amazingly passionate dedication we would have no arrow to the sky and no heads together? It seems that he took a rather ok drama and turned it single handedly into this intense experience that just sticks with you. And saved many people’s sanity, I guess.
            I already thought his acting was on a much higher level than simple ”pretending” and had almost schamanic qualities (as in leading the viewer through a series of emotions to achieve certain states of mind?). I don’t know how else to describe it. He seems really awesome. Need to watch some more of his work.

            I guess we all notice different storylines according to our background and experience. I didn’t care much about the Jumos at first, but then I realized that if you are going to talk all big about changing the world and stuff, you have to think of the people that this world is actually made of. People who worry about their business, who can tell on others just to be on the good side of the authorities, who can be bullied into sabotaging horses. In the end, as I saw their situation gradually getting more dire and unsafe, ending up with a worse policeman, that sucked.
            I still ff their scenes, though.

            Meanwhile, I’ve been pondering on the last episode. I wondered why I felt so satisfied when there didn’t seem to be any closure for Dae Gil and Hye Won and then I realized that Hye Won didn’t want a closure. ”Don’t forgive me”, she says. She accepts the sacrifice and the burden that goes with it.
            And the way Eop Bok and Dae Gil’s threads came together: both dying willingly, not for the sake of changing the world, but for the sake of the hope that the world can change. If that makes any sence.
            Both leaving a legacy to those they leave behind (Eop Bok’s eyes locking with Shut Up and Accept Your Lot- slave guy, who btw is an extremely tragic figure and he would be the one character I would cry the most for in this entire series if, you know, Dae Gil wasn’t in it. Or if he were prettier than Dae Gil. Hey, I’m only human. Anyway, I choose to believe that the The Masters Take Good Care Of Us-guy accepted it, just as Hye Won accepted Dae Gil’s).
            And btw, I loved how both Dae Gil and Hye Won described the change they want to see in exactly the same words: ”a world where people like me will not exist”. That is so simple yet powerful, more than any manifest or declaration of equality. The personal becomes the political.
            Love Cho Bok educating and empowering the next generation.
            Loved Chul Woong. Loved the way this whole thing ended. Imaginary arrow.

            There is one more thing I’ve been thinking, considering this little part of the review
            (Quote):
            ”In some ways, I found Eonnyeon unusually progressive for someone of her background. Like daring to love her young master, and having the audacity to feel disappointed that Dae Gil doesn’t tell his father about her when his father questions him about marriage (above).

            Having been born into slavery, Eonnyeon would have grown up with the deeply ingrained notion that a slave has no hope of marrying her young master.

            She would have also grown up with the notion that a slave does not refuse his/her master. So I found it interesting, and to some extent, a little jarring, when she refuses Dae Gil’s advances in episode 8.

            As Dae Gil leans in to kiss her, Eonnyeon pulls away, saying, “In my childhood, when I knew nothing of this world, I thought of you as just a compeer of mine. It was only when I grew into adulthood… that I found out what coming from different classes truly meant. If you see me as someone to frivol with… I would never dare to refute that, however… I would prefer if you didn’t.”

            Gracious words, to be sure. But coming from Eonnyeon, an uneducated slave-girl, it feels sufficiently discordant and odd to be distracting.”

            Yes, she is unusual.
            But then, she couldn’t be anything less. I mean, our lad fell for her, right? He decided to spend his life with her. He overcame his cowardice to save her from the Qing. He turned the peninsula upside-down for 10 years looking for her. A mentioning of her name was enough to shut his brain down. The idea of him forgetting her had him breaking down. He ended up giving up his very life, because she WAS his life (and not, as we often were tempted to think, some unhealthy obsession).

            Of course he wouldn’t fall like that for the first best cute slave that happened to be around, it had to be a very unusual young lady. She was extraordinary. She had the strength to hold on to her dignity and integrity. Going against every norm of her society, she saw her self as a person.
            Dae Gil saw her as a person too (oh, he looked so startled when she said ”if you thing I am a toy…”). He was equally extraordinary. He too went against his upbringing and everything that was expected of him. He saw her NEEDS.
            They were two extraordinary, awesome, remarkable young people. And that’s what makes their story so heartbreaking. They should be together. They should make lots and lots of extraordinary, awesome, remarkable babies that would grow up to make the world a better place. *sigh*

            I should hire someone to stop me from writing more than two paragrafs. Or from abusing the word ”extraordinary”.

            PS. Drama Fan, would it be ok if I joined that FB page that is mentioned in the link? I’m one of those nerds that update their profile pictures according to their current fiction affliction, so, um, let’s say I would fit in beautifully right now.

            Like

            • Yllejord, I want to give you a longer answer to this comment that has made me think again 🙂 but in the meantime I want to tell this: Of course please come and join the Chuno FB group please please please you are so welcome!

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  33. no matter how much i look i cant see to find a clip(?) of general choi & wangson farming :((( i really really wanted to see it ;_______;

    Like

    • Here, Amy, I just extracted the clip from my copy of the show & uploaded it to youtube. Lots of readers have been asking for it, and for some reason your comment today inspired me to figure out how to extract the clip and upload it. Enjoy 🙂

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  34. I saw the pictures of Dae Gil watching the lady go with tears in her eyes and I thought, ‘It’s official. I have to watch this.’ I will see how much I get through before I come back to this review. Truly, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

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    • Tee hee. Whatever works to get you on the Chuno train, Ann! 😀 Coz I personally find Chuno a must-watch piece of drama brilliance, and want as many people to check it out as possible. I hope you’ve got it in HD and are able to watch it on a nice big screen with a great sound system (HD on a good computer with a good set of earbuds works great too) – it’s gorgeous and breathtaking and watching it in HD is worth it 🙂

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  38. Finally back after such a long time (so many things changed here! new girl in your team, that’s a good news :D)!
    Anyway let’s talk about what brought me here: Chuno! I’ve finally found the time to devour your review…ah one sec *Chuno’s music: play* now the mood is set *delight*
    Amazing review like always. Fortunately I had not read it before writting mine cause you would have change my point of view in an extraordinary way even though I had not felt it like that. I guess that’s your power: turn people’s opinions round (well the only think I’m still not convinced about is the bromance…don’t know…it didn’t work with me -except when they met again near the end: that was a beautiful moment. One point for them). It’s truly an amazing drama and I’m angered against myself to not have been able to appreciate it to its full -too much political machination near the end, that’s what killed me honestly (and I think I had chosen the wrong time to watch it). I think it was the most beautiful saggeuk drama I’ve watched in term of making. Seeing you pictures revived good feelings (the fight scenes in ep 10! forever etched on my memory..actually the whole episode. I think that’s the one I preferred in the whole show). Watching this show in non-HD is a crime like you said^^ Anyway I’m convinced: I have to give Chuno a second try! it’s a must now that I’ve read your review (I can almost hear your voice saying “Let the sexy beast blow you away once again” haha). It’s just gonna have to wait the summer holidays 😉

    Like

    • Yay that you’ve finished Chuno, cineclique! 😀 I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t love it as much as I did, but I remember too, that I didn’t love it as much on my first watch either. As glorious as I found it, I was rather bored and frustrated with the show in its later stretches, perhaps similar to how you felt after watching it.

      On my second watch, though, I appreciate this show SO much more, and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance. I do believe that you’ll enjoy it more on your second watch too! Plus, there’s always room for more awesome Dae Gil, isn’t there? I’ve seen Jang Hyuk in a number of things now, and even though he’s consistently excellent, I feel like Dae Gil is his most iconic character to date. So yes, do let that sexy beast blow you away, all over again 😉

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  39. Glad to have found this review. I would like to point out though that Dae Gil did not know Ueyon and Tae Ha were about to be married. He saw the 4-year old child and made assumptions. We learn this when he tells General Ha something like “had I known, the results would have been different”. And I believe they would’ve been, too! I believe Ueyon has a quiet respect, a burgeoning attraction when his naked chest is two inches from her eyes/nose (it HAS been ten years for her after all), loyalty, and budding love. But I believe what she feels for Dae Gil is a burning undying passion. And the feelings she is developing for Tae Ha would’ve never been asked to spark had she known Dae Gil was alive. (She mourned 10 YEARS!) which brings up the only thing I wish Chuno had delved into – Uyeon’s life as a beautiful single woman. Despite believing Dae Gil dead, she refused to marry and I would’ve liked to see a bit more of that. Although ultimately, I suppose it wasn’t necessary storywise.

    Great review. And now I’ve got to go look for other movies and dramas starring the actor playing Dae Gil. Whew!

    Like

    • Hi there Beezus! It’s always nice to meet fellow Chuno fans – it’s such an amazing show 🙂

      Yes, I do agree that Unnyeon loved Dae Gil, and if she’d known he was alive, that things would have been different with Tae Ha. Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that the romance wasn’t the point of the show, but that the point was more about bigger, more fundamental, more profound things. Which explains why the story took the path that it did. It may not have been very satisfying on a romantic level, but for the bigger message about the price one is willing to pay to make a difference to the path of humanity, I found the show very moving.

      Now that you mention it, and giving it some thought, I actually doubt Unnyeon’s life as a single woman would’ve been all that different from other single women. I mean, she lived with her brother, and they’d “achieved” nobility, so she would’ve probably spent her days doing genteel things like embroidery and such. She would’ve been older than other single women, but given her station in life, I doubt her life would’ve been particularly different compared to other single noble women. I imagine she would’ve resisted her brother’s various attempts at finding her a match, probably? 🙂

      Jang Hyuk truly is amazing as Dae Gil. I personally find this his most iconic role to date, but he’s also great in other shows. If you’re in the mood for more sageuk, I found him very impressive in Tree With Deep Roots. Which is another fantastic show, I think. It’s not as magnificent as Chuno, but it’s very well-written, and quite fascinating, in that it examines how Hangul was developed. 🙂

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      • Hi kfangirl! I saw chuno in your fave list and it’s the reason Im watching it now. I’m on ep 10 and everything’s pretty ok (I’m kinda up and down at times with this one so far). I havent read ur review yet But I just have to say that eun yeon’s character is just down right irritating! I find it hard watching her at times-most times!

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        • Oops sorry my comment ended up here

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        • I feel ya, Ann! I watched Chuno twice, and was very frustrated with it the first time I watched it. Part of that frustration was with Eonnyeon, and another part was with the romance in the story. On my second watch, though, I stopped looking at it as a romance, and viewed it as the story of a man: Dae Gil, and his journey. And that changed just about everything, for me. So, if I’m not too late, might I suggest that you try to put the romance aside, because it really doesn’t pan out to be the main point of this story. I hope that helps! 🙂

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          • @kfangurl – you are so right! Even loving Chuno as I do, I remember literally pulling at my hair and saying “I’m done with this!” in frustration during the episodes where Dae gil and Eunn yeon have near misses of almost running into each other for cliffhangers several episodes in a row. lol. I was still relatively new to Kdramas back then so didn’t know that’s the format. lol. But the beauty of Hyuk (and his abs?) made me hang in there and I’m so glad that I did! It became less about this one true love (which is what I’m usually watching for) and became about Dae gil’s journey taking him on to fulfilling what his young idealistic romance and romantic ideals pointed him, perhaps a little unwillingly, toward – and also becoming transfixed with Jang Hyuk’s tour de force performance.

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            • Yes, I was SO upset with Chuno on my first watch, purely because I was watching through a romance kind of lens (it was pretty much my automatic lens, I was quite new to kdramas then).. But when you look at it as Dae Gil’s journey, it changes EVERYTHING, and it becomes this epic, profound, moving story that just lingers so much after the final credits. And OMG, Jang Hyuk is so amazing in this, I honestly think it might be his best performance that I’ve seen, to date. ❤

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              • It’s been so long since I originally read your review and commented (now I receive an email whenever somebody comments on it), but I believe it wasn’t until I read your review that I even realized the paradox and conundrum the story told – One general forced to be a slave who refuses to accept the reality that he is a slave and maintains the viewpoint of the upperclass, refusing to let his own circumstance sway that viewpoint by refusing to have empathy with his fellow slaves (because he does not view them as his fellows). Possibly, because as a mere military man, who barely qualifies in staus as a non- slave, his inferior feelings create his prejudice (you know self-hatred type of thing because societal norms have brainwashed him to believe certain people are better than others purely by means of birth); and 2) then there’s the true uppercrust noble who chuks Seau his noble status to hunt slaves but does not believe in the class system at all. He hunts slaves to find ONE particular slave (I’m still not sure if he hunts her to be with her or for revenge but I’ll pay more attention on my rewatch of the series). But as long as he’s hunting slaves to find her, he looks at it as he may as well get paid for doing it. He doesn’t see himself as noble because he, indeed does return slaves to their horrible existences (I know we usually romanticized the fact that he did rescue the one young girl, but many slaves had their desperate escapes foiled by him. He didn’t get that horrible monstrous reputation among slaves for no reason.) What was I saying? Oh. Yeah. Dae gil and The General are two opposite sides of the same coin symbolically held by Eueonyeon but in actuality, trapped by the social mores of the time they live in.

                I’m not saying it as well as you described it but one thing’s for certain, I’ve book marked your review of the series to re-read again after I finally get around to watching Chuno a second time.

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                • Aw! Thanks Beez, I’m so happy that this review helped to give you more thoughts and insights about Chuno! It’s such a masterpiece, and definitely one that I would recommend a rewatch of. Personally, I loved it so much more on my second watch, and I wouldn’t rule out watching it again sometime 🙂 I hope you enjoy your rewatch as much as I did, when you get around to it! 🙂

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                • Hi.
                  I just wanted to say that indeed, Dae Gil and Tae Ha are each other’s opposites in every way.
                  Tae Ha is the perfect comfucian gentleman, and I agree, he doesn’t see himself as a slave. He is also very shocked when Dae Gil tells him that his own wife is a former slave and he just can’t get over it. It’s something he has to struggle with.
                  Dae Gil was never the perfect confucian gentleman, and his disregard for social norms is a part of that. He somehow manages to see people, not statuses.

                  When the two of them meet, they start on the complete opposite corners and it is interesting to see how they gradually and reluctantly learn from each other. This is demonstrated at the hanging scene, where Dae Gil shows his will to live and Tae Ha clinges to his dignity (and some sort of death wish that I’m sure he’s bearing, being the last survivor of his family, his mates, the prince he was serving, I mean he must have felt some remorse for living on. People do that, right?).
                  But at the end we see that Dae Gil has found that there are some things even he could die for and Tae Ha that there are some things to live for.

                  Sorry, that was long. I just love this show, it’s full of details like this one.

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                  • @Yllegord – yup. What you said. That is why I’m trying to convince some like-minded Chuno loving bloggers to come forward and volunteer to sponsor a rewatch (@Kfangurl; @kjtamuser; @DramaFan *hint-hint*) where just a very brief summary of the episode is posted and all of us who didn’t watch Chuno in its original broadcast can discuss until Jang Hyuk’s bottom 2 abs fall off. 😄

                    Like

                    • Ooh. Intriguing proposition you’ve got there, Beez! I’m feeling a little swamped right now, but will definitely keep your suggestion in mind – unless DF takes you up on that first 😉

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                    • Namaste
                      (new word I picked up recently from Strong Woman Do Bong Soo, which I ignored at first but it’s been in my face every where I turned so I finally Googled what it means. I’m sure everybody else already knew. )

                      Like

                    • Ha. I actually didn’t know for sure what it means, so I just googled it myself! So you’re ahead of me, Beez! 😉 I need to get back to SWDBS.. I’m just a few eps away from the end, but I’m at the part where things aren’t going great, so it’ll take a little extra determination on my part, to get through that to the happy ending!

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