Drama Recaps
Iljimae (SBS)
by | May 24, 2008 | 106 Comments

SBS’s Iljimae isn’t necessarily BAD… if you don’t mind over-the-top, ham-fisted schlock. Perhaps that’s harsh, but I have a bad feeling about it — it’s like Hong Gil Dong but less realistic, which tells you a lot right there. The series starts off with grown-up Iljimae in an action sequence that is as ridiculously cheesy as it is logically riddled with holes. Then, as many sageuk dramas do, we jump back to childhood to establish our characters in the Tragedy! and Chaos! that informs their adulthoods, and it’s in the past that the series does a borderline decent (though convoluted) job of building the intertwining relationships.

The current-time sequence that starts us off is what bothers me most — because although we spend a mere ten or fifteen minutes in that time period before the story jumps backward and improves, I know we’re going to be returning to the “present” time eventually. And when it does, if things continue in the vein of the series start, I am going to be incapacitated by Howls of Laughter at the Ridiculous.

The acting ranges from acceptable to laughably over-the-top, the directing is okay, the effects are not as good as they could be, the music is pretty good, and Lee Junki is as much a ham as he ever was. (He’s always had a tendency to overact, and his best moments are when he pulls back from his excess. He doesn’t restrain himself much here.) Can I see why the series got off to a quick start and healthy ratings? Yes. Do I agree? Umm… not really.

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But rather than merely sling words like “cheesy” and “absurd” around and work the Lee Junki fans into a froth, let me describe for you the opening sequence, and you be the judge.

Sitting in their darkened lair, Iljimae and his bandit friends discuss the night’s raid. Everyone is opposed to Iljimae’s target, because it’s too heavily fortified, too impossible. But Iljimae dons his Hannibal Lecter-esque metal-plate mask and says, “There’s no place in this world I can’t rob. Because… I’m Iljimae.” Wait wait, let me try out that logic: There’s no way a million dollars won’t fall out of the sky in to my lap. Because I’m javabeans. Hm, I wonder why that didn’t work.

Iljimae, disguised as a peasant/trader, arrives at their heavily guarded target with a cart of huge ice blocks, the largest of which has been dyed red with berry juice for an event the next day. The guards are on high alert, having heard Iljimae’s intentions to raid, and wave them inside — where Iljimae crushes the ice, dyed red to hide its contents, dons his armor, and retrieves his weapons, which includes an arm-mounted grappling hook. Oh yeah, and he peels off his rubbery facial prosthetics because they’ve already been invented in this parallel universe.

Iljimae crawls through tunnels, then runs along the rooftops — jumping back and forth willy-nilly ’cause it’s cool, not because it makes sense or anything — and arrives at one particular building. He knocks out the guards by throwing what looks like golf balls at their heads and beating them unconscious, and uses his arm-mounted grappling hook to launch the wire and hook to an opposing building, then traverses the divide silently by climbing the wire. What, he couldn’t just jump to that rooftop?

Then Iljimae busts out his invisibility cloak — yup, that’s right, I said INVISIBILITY CLOAK — and hides himself while rigging his PLASTIC EXPLOSIVES to bust a hole in the wall. Dude Iljimae, I’m sure you’re smart and everything, but don’t you think you could’ve saved yourself some trouble by using the invisibility cloak to begin with?

Now he’s inside the chamber containing some kind of valuable artifact. Guards swoop in, dropping down from the ceiling because doors are so passé, y’all, and surround Iljimae. They fight. (Credit where it’s due: this fight scene is filmed pretty well, with nice photography and lighting.) Ilijmae rat-tails a piece of cloth (you know, that obnoxious towel-whipping boys do in locker rooms, erm, not that I’d know personally) and extinguishes the candles, dousing the room in darkness.

When torches are brought in, Iljimae is gone. But they hear the clash of a swordfight, and rush to the room next door — it’s Iljimae versus Guard. They corner Iljimae on the ground, and find that somehow, it’s not Iljimae but a guard who’s been gagged and dressed in Iljimae’s own clothing. Wait, wha-? Exactly.

It’s like how Tom Cruise keeps changing faces in Mission Impossible and the last time he does it, you’re like, “Oh, that’s cool,” before you stop and think, “Wait, how is he making these perfectly designed prosthetic masks of people’s faces in advance?” But logic has no place in a Mission Impossible movie, nor has it a place here.

Anyway, the guards rush to their precious artifact, whatever it is, only to find it’s been stolen — left only with Iljimae’s trademark white handkerchief with his signature plum-blossom detailing. Outside, now dressed in the guard’s clothing, Iljimae walks the rooftop and says: “See? I told you there was nothing in the world I couldn’t do. Because… I’m ILJIMAE!”

So there we have it: Iljimae, a fusion sageuk that obviously misunderstands the word “fusion” to mean “make up whatever the hell you want, even if it doesn’t make sense, because we can call it fusion!” A sageuk that’s as much Jack Bauer meets Bond meets Mission Impossible as it is supposedly a historical.

Well, let’s cover the story of his beginnings now:

In his childhood, Iljimae is a happy boy named LEE KYUM, son of respected nobleman Lee Won Ho. He lives a charmed life with his family of four, and all is cheerfulness, goodness, privilege and plum blossoms floating in the wind. Not only that, but Kyum is a good kid, honest and sympathetic.

When another noble youngster, SHI WAN, targets a local poor boy CHA DOL (below right) with his cruelty, Kyum steps in. Shi Wan is an elitist little shit, to put it nicely, and thinks Cha Dol (whose adult character is played by Park Shi Hoo) deserves a little more misery than being born poor in a rich man’s world, and steals a medallion from Kyum’s father, stuffing it inside Cha Dol’s bag. Then he accuses the boy of being a thief, and the boy is dragged off, begging for mercy.

Kyum (above left) looks at his father’s returned medallion and notices a sticky white confection on it, and plays Encyclopedia Brown. The poor boy’s fingers are clean, and so are Kyum’s father’s. Not so Shi Wan’s.

Shi Wan runs off and Cha Dol (later renamed Shi Hoo) thanks noble father and son for stepping in to prove his innocence. He swears to repay their kindness one day.

When BYUN SHIK, Shi Wan’s powerful father, finds out about his son’s misdeed, he doesn’t necessarily disapprove but fears the wrath of Lee Won Ho. He tries to force his son to apologize, but Shi Wan petulantly refuses, and his good, kind baby sister EUN CHAE (later played by Han Hyo Joo) steps up. She’ll beg for forgiveness.

So when she goes to plead prettily for her brother’s wrong, she meets Kyum, and they look at plum blossoms and marvel at the little bird (a warbler) that flits among the trees. Ah, love at first sight. (I know it’s supposed to be sweet, but who else thinks that finding true love at age 8 is kinda creepy? I mean, if my soulmate were the first snotty boy I had a crush on in second grade… shudder.)

This drama is not without its own convoluted birth secret, and here we have DANI, Cha Dol’s mother and wife to Swe Dol (above right). She’s the long-suffering type who used to be a maidservant in the household of a young Lee Won Ho. She and Lee Won Ho were in love, despite their class differences, and also lovers — and when she found out she was pregnant, do you know what she did? She headed straight for Byun Shik (Shi Wan’s father) and told him that he could have her for a night (he’d been bugging Lee Won Ho to let him have his servant for his concubine). They had sex. Somehow this makes sense in Dani’s mind as the logical thing to do in self-preservation. I don’t know why. Soon after, she married Swe Dol and bore her son Cha Dol, who is actually Lee Won Ho’s son and therefore Kyum’s half-brother. Are you following all this?

Anyway. Swe Dol is a former thief but generally good-hearted (though weak) man, and when he’s contracted to do something for Byun Shik, he balks at the last moment because it feels wrong.

The conspiracy plot: Lee Won Ho’s older brother (above left) is at the helm of the conspiracy, which has to do with a royal coup. The older brother (I’m not positive they’re blood brothers, or if they’re using the term as a sign of respect/closeness), accompanied by his three warriors, orders Byun Shik (above right) to make Lee Won Ho into a traitor. Byun Shik carries this out by hiring Swe Dol to plant a blood-sealed letter on Lee Won Ho’s property — but Swe Dol backs out at the last moment in fear. His refusal causes him to be beaten, and Cha Dol, who has followed his father, cries out not to kill him. He agrees to carry out the task in place of his father if they will spare them, and he does.

However, both are then about to be killed by Byun Shik (to tie off loose ends) when Dani hears and rushes to beg for mercy. She reminds Byun Shik of their night together years ago, and confesses that Cha Dol is HIS son. Thus Cha Dol is sent off to live with Byun Shik’s family, to grow up alongside Shi Wan and Eun Chae and renamed as Shi Hoo. Poor kid’s going to develop an identity complex when he realizes that this second family isn’t the right one, either. (And that his act to save his adoptive father in fact killed his biological one.) What an irritating mother.

When the three warriors infiltrate, Lee Won Ho hides Kyum in a cabinet and locks it before going out to face the men. He fights a good fight, but is killed — all while Kyum watches through a peephole in the cabinet. The death is ruled a suicide and the man declared a traitor. As punishment for high treason, the wife and daughter are sold off. Kyum, however, is spared because Swe Dol arrives on the scene before the authorities, hears the boy in the cabinet, and carries him away. However, Kyum is wanted by authorities as well as Byun Shik’s men, who want to kill him to clean up the mess.

After awakening, Kyum wanders back home and is found by some guards, who chase him through the village, where he runs into an orphaned brother-sister pair. In exchange for their silence, Kyum offers his father’s medallion to the older brother, who pawns it in exchange for medicine and food. The girl, BONG SOON (played later by Lee Young Ah), awaits her brother’s return, while the brother finds himself being followed by assassins who have tracked down the medal he sold.

The boy is killed in front of Kyum’s eyes, and he grabs the girl and runs. When cornered on a cliff, Kyum tells Bong Soon to jump on the count of three to the water below, but just as he jumps, she’s grabbed by the warrior. She begs for mercy and the man readies to kill her — but doesn’t. He reports to his superiors that the girl is dead, however. Guess he has an ounce of heart left.

Kyum is spotted in the village and suspected to be Lee Won Ho’s missing son. He spots his mother being herded away, and almost acknowledges her — but she starts acting crazy and accusing Kyum of hurting her son to deflect suspicion and to save him. The guard tests Kyum by telling him the woman is the wife of a traitor and handing him a stone; Kyum hesitates for a long moment, then takes the rock and hurls it at his mother’s head. Geez, boy, you couldn’t aim for her stomach or something?

Meanwhile, Cha Dol/Shi Hoo is with one of the men, because he met Kyum in person and could confirm his identity. Shi Hoo answers that the boy is NOT Kyum, and thinks back to his promise to repay the boy for his kindness.

Kyum is released, and wanders in a daze, where he’s found by Dani. He collapses, and she takes him home. When he awakens, the trauma has been so severe he has no memory of recent events, and thinks Dani and Swe Dol are his parents. Swe Dol wants to raise the boy (he’s feeling guilty for his part in everything), and renames him Yong.

Meanwhile, now Bong Soon is all alone, and the warrior who’d spared her life now pays a village woman to raise her. But the vulgar village lady just wants money and plans to sell the girl off, prompting Bong Soon to follow the man. He yells at her to go back, but she cries, “I don’t wanna be sold off. I’m scared.” He turns his back on her and continues; Bong Soon continues following him.

And then we’re thirteen years later.

Kyum is now Yong, and believes Dani and Swe Dol to be his parents. He’s also constantly bullied by other young scholars, led by Shi Wan, and is today strung up in a tree. A hunter comes by and cuts him down, and hears Yong muttering in his sleep. He puts the pieces together and realizes that this must be the long-lost Kyum.

Meanwhile, Yong begs his parents not to force him to go to school, and plays hooky, wandering the village in search of amusement. He’s spotted by a peddler who takes him for an easy mark, and Yong is delivered to the man’s daughter — Bong Soon.

In the intervening years, the man has become a sort of peddler of junk, working with his adopted daughter to swindle people for worthless, wacky stuff, much of which is sexually themed, like primitive condoms. This time Bong Soon makes promises of really awesome sexy comics — which turn out to be a book of flower drawings. Yong can’t believe he was cheated, and rushes back to get his money back. Unfortunately, just then he’s caught by his father Swe Dol and dragged back to school

His return isn’t received happily by the other students, particularly Shi Wan, who leads the group in another round of hazing…

 
Additionally…

Stuff I liked: The pre-Iljimae years where Lee Junki lives as the troublemaking Yong seem interesting, and have more touches of comedy and light-heartedness. I didn’t think I’d like Lee Young Ah’s character, but Bong Soon seems plucky and cheerful, and I’m liking that better than that exemplar of perfection, Eun Chae (although we haven’t seen Han Hyo Joo yet). I don’t know how long we’ll stay in this time range, however, and I’m not particularly eager to speed ahead to the Robin Hood years because it’s so full of nonsense — it aims for cool but I find it campy.

Stuff I didn’t like: The Hong Gil Dong comparisons have already started, and this time they’re totally merited. While the characters’ origins are different, there are a lot of similarities not just in story but also in execution. And while I think Hong Gil Dong was a very flawed drama, in this respect I think it has a leg up over Iljimae, because it did this fusion-comedy-sageuk thing first and Iljimae seems to be echoing it.

Lee Junki as the goofy Yong is amusing, but his grown-up Iljimae is corny as hell. He may do well as the cool dangerous guy in a full-on action thriller like Time of Dog and Wolf, but it doesn’t achieve the same effect when the drama has a comedic overtone as it does in Iljimae. Kang Ji Hwan was similarly goofy as Hong Gil Dong, but his character was aware of the comedy; Lee Junki could take a hint.

I actually thought Iljimae was better than expected, and the drama did get better as it went along, starting off really poorly (I thought) and working its way up. So I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I have no problem dropping it at the first sign of boredom. Because I’ve already seen Hong Gil Dong, and I don’t need to see it again dressed in new trimmings.

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106 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. smiley6yrl

    Thanks for doing a review on this series, dramabeans. I’m still deciding whether or not I should watch this. I watched the first 10 mins of episode 1 and I find Lee Junki acting a bit corny n uncomfortable. It seems like he’s trying really hard to act and be just as funny as Kang Ji kwan, but it doesn’t cut it for me. The Storyline already reminded me of HGD, so i’m not sure if I want to watch the same story again. But I am still going to check it out when the eng subs are available, just to give it a fair chance.

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  2. Di

    Damn…I couldn’t even get through half the summary because the story line is just so …….boo. But I’ll still watch the first episode for some laughs and eyecandy. XD

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  3. Boring

    Same here. I downloaded the first episode and literally skimmed through it in 10 mins. Didn’t find it interesting or worth my time and Han Hyo Joo didn’t even show up in the first episode. The only reason why I wanted to see this series was because of Han Hyo Joo. I might try to catch up after it finishes airing, but not right now. Too bored with historical dramas.

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  4. Lucille

    Thanks for the review. I am still unsure about this series. I’ve scanned the first two episodes without subs just to get a feel for it and found it to be a bit disappointing. While I liked HGD, I was actually looking forward to this iljimae and was hoping that it would be a little more serious and go in a different direction. The first 10 min or so dashed that dreams. However, I will not give up. Some dramas such as Powerful Opponents, Who are you?, The Vineyard Man, ect proved to be better in the second half than the first.

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  5. Risa

    Ohhhhh come on ppllll!!!! I disagree wit the comparsion between HGD and thisss.. its soooo differenttt!!! I got hooked alreaddyyyyyyy!!! But the continous tragdyyyyy is abit over the top but come on give jinki a chanceee. How can u judge his “over the top” actin if he’s only appeared for like 10 mins!!!!! Plz javabean keep on summarizin this drama!! IT”S GOODDD period!! LMAOO give the drama a fair chance, i think ep.2 is better it’s very touchin (I think)!!

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  6. Maggie

    hmmm… why many people seems a bit disappointed with the first 10 minute and also judge this drama as it’s like HGD!! i dont think it’s similar coz HGD is a comical story but iljimae will be more dramatic [although very first scene of junki in EP2 seems very funny ^^ he's cute] …no offense but i think HGD is a bit draggy and too boring in many episodes…it’s fun anyway ^^

    Iljimae cant help to be compared with HGD but i can tell you it’s TRUELY DIFFERENT !!!!! i really like the childhood scene coz Dabin is soooo cute !! and the story is very complex. about Junki, i agree that he’s over acting in some scenes but his acting will improved in the next episode, i’m quite sure coz he’s a great actor and he works so hard from i watched many behind the scenes clip^^

    i’m waiting to see Han Hyo Joo too, i hope she will end up with Iljimae, not Young-ah… haha

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  7. tlina069

    I absolutely hate that stupid mask! It makes this look like Power Ranger!!

    PS: I always LOVE your writing style!! So sharp, witty and very much enjoyable! ^_^
    Love your sarcasm! Hehehehehehe… ^_^ Keep up the good work!!!

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  8. its trish

    craaazy childhood/plot story :O

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  9. dae

    Am sad that you don’t find the acting according to your expectations. I agree that LJK seemed intense when he is serious in his acting a scene particularly when he pushes the expression out of his eyes , but compared to the walled eye korean actors and actresses I have seen, his way still come out good. Most of his facial expressions would be timely.

    Still, am looking forward to watching it though.

    I hope this one is like how you reviewed TBDW where the first few episodes don’t show much excitement as the succeeding ones and got you dissapointed/bored, yet when I watched it, turned out to be a good series (very entertaining for me).

    I didn’t watch HGD because I have had too much of period series like DJG (or women of the palace?). I usually like a dose of good laugh and romance — with comic relief -> i don’t mind who would act in it; with romance -> i’d like to see my fave actor to do it or at least someone who’s (an) eye candy and has got good chemistry with his leading lady. I saw the pictures you posted on HGD and looking at it didn’t make me interested at all to watch it, save for the review you’ve made (which you always do well)

    Since am a fan of LJK my curiousity drives me nuts –I have to watch this Iljimae!.

    And yes, he’s such an eye candy i don’t have to wonder why he is on TV.

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  10. 10 marcel

    O_O lee junki looks like darth vader in star wars…if that’s the effect they were going for they succeeded…i’ll go make myself a ham & cheese sandwich now…

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  11. 11 Cath

    Thanks for the review I really enjoyed it! It’s not similar to Hong Gil Dong (I’ve watched it already) , it’s totally different! Can’t wait till the rest of the drama~ ^_^ Awwww so you aren’t going to continue to write more reviews as the drama goes on?

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  12. 12 mookie

    Get Well soon, javabeans, and try to enjoy the long wkend.

    I share exactly your sentiments here, I was looking forward to this drama with more time on my hands lately. But it disappointed me and I lost concentration with the unnecessarily convoluted ( ‘messy’ for me) storytelling. I know it’s supposed to make us feel for Ijimae, set up his heroism with the tragedy he endured, but I need much more depth and convincing and less flying around looking oddly heavy and cheesily just coz he’s Ijimae. There’s a big chunk of shiny metal flying laboriously feets upon their heads and the guards didnt move a single eyelash. That’s some good acting there by those extras. I cringed too many times watching this to call it enjoyable. And I stopped exactly at the line of ‘because …I’m Ijimae.’…. rolled my eyes for couple minutes…then watched on just for the heck of it.

    One episode is enough for me, unless there’s some miracle.

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  13. 13 Auntie Mame

    LOL! I also described it as Jack Bauer/24 and Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible, for the opening sequence. But, that’s all I got out of it since I couldn’t understand the dialog.

    I’ll give it another try when the subs come out.

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  14. 14 Angela

    hehe, your review was so funny. The beginning sounds hilarious, and I’m tempted to watch that part alone just for a good laugh. Not sure if I’ll end up checking this out in the future or not (I’m not a Lee JunKi fan) but if I start hearing people raving about it, then I might sometime when I’m bored… either way, thanks for the sneak peak! =)

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  15. 15 all4movies

    Now I know what you mean by cheesy and absurd.

    Thanks.

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  16. 16 leanie

    lawlz, totally agree with everything you said there.

    the invisibility made me go wtf and the plastic explosives didn’t help much =_=;

    echoing HGD is an understatement. but then again, it’s kinda hard for it not to since.. there’s only so much space fusion sageuks could deviate from one another >.

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  17. 17 asianromance

    i managed to see part of the first episode- the invisibility cloak and the whole carving a hole in the glass thing drove me nuts- and after reading your review- i hope that the series gets better. seems like they spent the first 2 episodes setting things up-can’t wait to get to the real stuff.

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  18. 18 snow_drop*

    lol, I was never really fond of LJK’s acting…I find it lacking something. ^^

    Well, I’m not too sure I will have the patience for historical drama. The only one I actually enjoyed the first “few” episodes was Yi San and the only one up to date I finished that is korean sageuk is Legend…with a lot of skipping around lol.

    I have to give it to you dramabeans, you and your choice of words never cease to entertain me as I read.

    ^^

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  19. 19 hua

    LOL. I don’t think I’m going to watch this drama – reading your review is SO MUCH BETTER! ^______^ Your take on the beginning sequence is so entertaining!

    Oh Encyclopedia Brown – I remember reading those when I was young! How nostalgic!

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  20. 20 Illdielaughing

    Hmm, I don’t find this very appealing. Part of it is that I’ve seen Hong Gil Dong and I don’t think I need another fusion sageuk right now especially one thats this over the top and corny. And the second is I find Lee Jun Ki terribly over rated and his acting is, as you said, over the top. I saw the first 3 minutes of Time between Dog and Wolf and did not for a second buy his intense, high octane acting.

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  21. 21 hjkomo

    “Howls of Laughter at the Ridiculous”
    lol.
    The first two episodes were as convoluted with twisted fates as they come, never mind all the names to keep track of. Loved the child actors. Loved the Lee Won Ho character. Too bad he’s already dead. Guess they won’t be doing any flashbacks of him.

    If they can stick to the action/drama, it’ll improve. But it looks like they’re going to continue with the humor (badly done). Oh well, I’ll keep watching for a while to see how it goes. ;)

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  22. 22 belleza

    “A sageuk that’s as much Jack Bauer meets Bond meets Mission Impossible as it is supposedly a historical.”

    Sigh!!! Just like Jumong!

    Oh Sarah, you just know how to make me swoon! I’m in love already and I haven’t even seen the first minute of Lee Ninja Ki yet!! :D

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  23. 23 michi

    Actually, I kinda like this drama. As ridiculous as this opening scene was (with the ice, fake mask, grappling hook, and all) I still found it entertaining to watch. If you take it out of context and think of it as just an action saeguk, it’s not too bad. I mean, if people were FLYING in Damo, how bad can an invisibility cloak be? ^_- lol

    I was really turned off with the opening scene of Hong Gil Dong tho. The techno music and the showing off was really over the top. Didn’t really fit. So it’s still too early to judge…

    I found the scene with Yong and his mother really really heartwrenching though. but I guess that’s just me. But I’m really liking Yong’s adoptive father. He seems like the only human in this drama–the only person who can actually laugh. Foolish but definitely good-hearted.

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  24. 24 Annie

    I’m a bit disappointed to read your review. As I’ve been looking forward to Iljimae since January. However, I will hold my judgement until I actually see the drama. Am I the only one that thinks Jun Ki’s mask is ridiculous looking? I love Jun Ki and I think he’s a brillant actor, but I must agree that he has his over-the-top moments. I think he puts too much effort into acting, that sometimes its just unnecessary.

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  25. 25 sarada

    i loved hong gil dong… so i got excited about this show…but after these negative comments about the show… not to sure if ill enjoy it… but some people didnt like powerful opponents.. but i really enjoy it.. so…. im SO CONFUSED!

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  26. 26 Annie

    @sarada. Its best to watch the drama yourself before you make judgements. Different people have different taste. There are tons of dramas that people loved that I ended up hating (for example Thank You & Coffee Prince).

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  27. 27 k-obsessed

    Ooooh I liked all the shiny fantasy and preetty scenes but the storyline DOES sound way too cheesy……Should I give it a go? Maybe just for the sake of Lee Junki. But other than that it sounds like those typical fairy tales where everyone’s too predictable.

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  28. 28 Dahee Fanel

    I’m actually enjoying this quite a bit, haha. The first ten or so minutes were ridiculous, of course, but my theory is is that it was simply showing the “Legend Iljimae”…Y’know, the way people see him, the way he’s supposed to be in the eyes of the populace, his supposed invincibility, etc. But as the flashbacks to his childhood and his adult, pre-Iljimae period show, that’s really NOT who he is, not deep down. So that’s why I could stomach that campy, hilarious opening, and why I think that it won’t go to such extents of campiness again later in the series.

    I think the supporting actors are doing an absolutely wonderful job, and the child actors were good, too. Lee Jun Ki is overacting, yes, but I think that’s mostly the PD and writer’s fault – I feel like they decided on the overacting so that they can later contrast it with his descent into darker times once he regains his memory. With that in mind, I think he’s actually doing pretty well. Also, Lee Young Ah is doing much better than I expected! Don’t know how Han Hyo Joo and Park Shi Hoo will fare in the upcoming episodes, but I’m feeling optimistic.

    And I haven’t seen Hong Gil Dong, but from all I’ve heard, Iljimae seems to be the darker drama, and I hope people won’t compare them too much. Not when Iljimae feels rather close to other sageuk I’ve enjoyed in the past. Really, from what I’ve heard and seen, SBS seems to be doing well on the sageuk front this year.

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  29. 29 belleza

    I think it being a SBS drama, especially a SBS sageuk for the younger set, I’ve already adjusted my expectations a bit. 1000 Years of Love. Bicheonmu.

    I’m DETERMINED to enjoy Iljimae damnit. :D If I could enjoy Bad Love, by Jove, I will enjoy Lee Jung Ki playing Jack Bauer Oppa, and Han Hyo Joo playing pretty vacant!!

    I like fusion dramas in general, and I think they’re more agreeable if you’ve watched light Taiwanese historical dramas starring idols. If I had my choice of story, I’d do an adaptation of the celestial maiden myth, or a remake of Fushigi Yuugi with Lee Jung Ki playing Tamahome. He’d be great in that.

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  30. 30 shingo

    This is a very hilarious show in a very bad way. Javabeans have mentioned all the places I’ve roflmao. LJK always overact, he’s always tolerable though, but this time it’s overboard to the extreme of ridiculous (not helped by the script).

    Yes if I treat it as if it’s a silly screwball, it’s entertaining. But I really think the too complex twists and turns of the script is confusing and annoying, I wished they had just let me get the feel for the characters, instead of forcefeeding me a whole rainbow of chopsuey cliches when I cant even digest who’s who.

    And, will a director/scriptwriter ever ask an actor to ‘overact’ for contrast?! I’ve never thought overacting as a virtue, maybe I should think again.

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  31. 31 marine maiden

    Thank for doing a review. I was expecting it would be a better series but after reading your review…. Well… I’m not as enthusiastic as previous… *sweat*

    Too much out of place event and stuff…. Gee… I won’t mind if they do a more logical fight scene….

    I skip the history (flashback part) since I’m confused. It’s too complicated. LOL
    Thank for reviewing javabeans. ;)

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  32. 32 orchid

    you most definitely are the queen of drama reviews. =)

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  33. 33 chuppers

    Well, watching this was… interesting to say the least. In the first five minutes, when I saw the invisibility cloak come out, I immediately thought that the scriptwriters have been drinking too much of the Harry Potter Kool-Aid. That said however, I think I’ll stick with this for a couple more episodes and see how it goes.

    LJK is definitely a ham. He seems to indulge (wallow is a more appropriate words perhaps) in theatrics, and believes its good acting I think. I’m just waiting for the histrionics when he remembers the past.

    Both Spotlight and Iljimae seem to take themselves too seriously. It’s going to be interesting to see which out-dramas the other :)

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  34. 34 eevee

    ahh dramabeans ur too awesome! u said everything i thought but was afraid to point out cuz so many other ppl had high expectations for it, including myself. when iljimae whipped out his invisible cloak, i had to pause and rewind because i thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. i couldnt believe it! i was like wtf. so i never really thought that was true, only my imagination. but now that u mentioned it too, i know im not insane! thanks so much for the summary. lets all hope it gets better than it started!

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  35. 35 michi

    @ belleza

    aw sweet!! I’d definitely love a Fushigi Yugi drama remake. That’d be awesome! Wonder who’d be miaka tho?

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  36. 36 Marzy

    no offense to the LJK fans, but i sorta agree with the ham comment… plus this ‘Hannibal Lecter-esque metal-plate mask ‘ is so true i cant help but giggle out loud to myself. at first the costumes were too T_T for me. and i love the hong gil dong fusion drama if u ask me. or maybe KJH pulled it off too well. lol.
    plus, i got a feel that it had bits and pieces from ever fantasy adventure type movie and drama.. like yeah the invisible cloak thingie..

    i just peeped at this cause HHJ and PSH was in it. i love them both. PSH from my perfect neighbor and HHJ ever since nn5 and amahae. but i say the supporting cast is doing great.. dare i venture and say better than the lead? well not yet anyway. i look forward to HHJ and PSH appearance. but this drama isnt exactly on my to watch list for now.

    i still look forward to MBC’s though. LSG

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  37. 37 Illdielaughing

    @marzy
    Yeah, I’m so ready for Lee Seung Gi to impress me with his acting.

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  38. 38 KT

    “Howls of Laughter at the Ridiculous”
    ^ That is the quote of the week! I’m putting that on my screensaver at work. Thanks for the extremely entertaining review. The invisibility cloak bit in your review was the best….

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  39. 39 at

    I’m with Dahee Fanel on Iljimae. Regarding Hong Gildong, I could not stick through with that show.

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  40. 40 Alamxi Albus

    at the 1st time, u may think it’s like HGD but it’s total different !!! There’s cool man like CW, no stupid girl like YN

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  41. 41 Karen Nguyen

    i dont understand why some of you are reluctant to watch this series.
    it has a great start and very interesting to watch.
    even though there are some similarity with HGD but, dont u all know that Hong and Iljimae are somewhat similar, both robinhood-type.
    im pissed off with the ending of Hong too, but dont just blame Iljimae for hong’s ending. thats not fair with iljimae.

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  42. 42 With-good-intention

    Everything is too early to judge!
    DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSION, it’s too bad if you do soo.
    For me the first 2 episodes are great. I don’t think it should be more realistic are less overacting. Don’t forget this is about a LEGEND. Some details seem very supernatural, but nothing wrong about that. It’s fiction afterall, and not some kind of scientifical evidence.
    There is not much of Jun Ki in the these episodes. But his acting was ok for now, and very amusing in the last part. I’ve never seen him in this kind of role before, he did a fine job!

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  43. 43 ...

    lol! Thanks for the recap! So funny as usual

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  44. 44 chiquynh

    OH, come on! PLLLLL!!!!
    You guys don’t think the fist mins of ep1 is just only a dream about the LEGEND of superhero that people expect and overstate such as HGD at the beginning?!!!!
    Reading all your comments makes me laugh, so funny and superficial ! Specially some guy still did not watch it yet !!!
    For me, it is definitely difference from the HGD and seems much more interesting, the storyline is quite closely, dramatics and attractively. Still two early to judge a one-sides argument, let see what is going on till the end so you may have the exactly conclusion!!!
    ILjimae Fighting!!!! Lee Jun Ki – fighting!!!

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  45. 45 Amanda

    HAHAHA. your description is awesome.

    this review makes me want to encourage you keep watching, just so I can get SOME form of entertainment from what sounds like a lackluster drama. probably wont watch it- er…maybe I will just to watch Jun ki be pretty, and swish his hair around. ooh, let me know when he’s in a scene where there is tears. he’s such a pretty cryer. its all crystalline tears, and girly, heaving sobs. which, I suppose, is a step above Full house- when everytime Rain had a crying scene, he would start throwing stuff around, instead of really actually acting…

    /endsidebar.

    but srsly. review…. and I will read. :P

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  46. 46 naddification

    oh god, i just LOL-ed when i read your review. i was actually looking forward to the drama but now…..

    hahah in any case, thanks for the awesome review and i’ll PROLLY watch Iljimae later in the afternoon. at least i now know what to expect. haha.

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  47. 47 PepperGreen

    the starting was pretty slow, not very interesting i’d say, but later on it gets better and better. it’s good and it’s worth watching. i hope it gets better on in the 9th episode :)

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  48. 48 naddification

    daymn… here in singapore, the only source where i can watch Iljimae with english subs is at mysoju.com.. guess i’d have to patiently wait for the upcoming episodes.

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  49. 49 itsme

    darn..should have watchd this before hong gil dong..
    that way id hav much MUCH lesser expectations..

    ohwell..ill watch it anywei…lee jun ki is cute!!!

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  50. 50 Rai

    Hey, you can watch Iljimae with English subs at http://aznboom.com Have fun . ^^ Oh, they also have many other Asian Dramas.

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