Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- Q is for Queen Seondeok

Welcome to Day 17 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.
I've always been drawn to square-peg stories, which is why I write them myself.

There's no desire to be contrary on my part. Sometimes people are turned off of certain things simply because everyone else loves it, and they have no intention of being like everyone else.

For me, I find that I'm never on quite the same wavelength as the general population. In high school, when everyone else was laughing their way through Caddyshack, I was going to a limited screening of Australian film Breaker Morant. When everyone else couldn't wait to find out what happened between Ross and Rachel on Friends, my husband and I were glued to the animated show The Tick.    

Luckily my husband and I share the same tastes in cult flicks, quirky series and foreign films. 

For Day 17 --
Q is for Korean historical drama series Queen Seondeok

A sweeping epic of royal power struggles in 7th century Korea, the series follows the Luke-and-Leia-style tale of royal twins separated at birth to ensure the safety of the second twin, and includes a Darth Vader-esque figure who wields power even though she is not the rightful person to hold the throne.

Instead of taking place in a galaxy far, far away, however, this story is rooted in the real history of the Hermit Kingdom, when Queen Seondeok ruled as the only person of sacred bone lineage who was in a position to assume the throne. The bone rank system is similar to the royal bloodline system in place throughout most other kingdoms of the world.

Princess Deokman, later Queen Seondeok, is played by Lee Yo-Won.

As with all of my favorite love stories, there's a heart-tugging love triangle between Deokman / Lord Yushin, initially her commander when she masquerades as a male who trains in a martial group known as a Hwarang (similar to medieval knights in service to their king) / and Bidam, the disciple of an unrivaled martial arts master who rises to become a powerful military leader. In the photo above, Queen Seondeok stands beside Lord Yushin (with a red sash) and Bidam (with a black sash.)

The series boasts a large cast and really uses every character. All of the subplots are just as important to the story as a whole, and supporting characters have strong and touching story arcs. I especially love the development of the two characters shown above, at left and at center. Jukbang, a former con man and thief, is played by Lee Moon-Sik. Godo, Jukbang's sidekick, is played by Ryu Dam.

I also particularly love the master-servant relationship between Hwarang leader and mystic Munno, played by Jung Ho-Bin, and his roguish disciple Bidam, played by Korean heartthrob Kim Nam-Gil.

Lord Yushin, left, played by Uhm Tae Woong, is initially a rather prickly, by-the-book adolescent who grows into a man with unyielding loyalty and integrity. It's impossible not to love Yushin as the series unfolds, even when Bidam arrives and his charismatic impact makes itself felt. It's equally impossible not to be attracted to Bidam.

The audience is in the very same boat as Queen Seondeok. You can't ask for more when you're dealing with a love triangle.

However, I've been saving the very best part of this series for the last.

Queen Seondeok boasts one of the best villainesses on screen, ever.

With one slightly-raised eyebrow, Ko Hyun-Jung as Lady Mishil strikes terror into the hearts of her own two families, into the royal family and in all of the kingdom. She has a legitimate husband, as well as an exalted lover who is the military commander, two grown sons and a brother who all work together in her service. She wields the true power directly under the nose of the king -- until the return of Deokman and her campaign to take the reins of the kingdom away from Lady Mishil once and for all.

There's a great use of musical themes throughout the series, including this strangely-addictive theme performed on crystal glasses known as yurijan. It first appears as the royal twins are born. Whenever it surfaces throughout the series, we know with glee that Lady Mishil is hatching another diabolical plan.

Here's another sequence showcasing Lady Mishil's political maneuvering against Princess Deokman. Appearing with her are her son, her brother, her lover and one of the temple maidens. We also see Princess Deokman and Lord Yushin.

This series also boasts completely kick-ass fight scenes, both one-on-one sword fights and all-out battle sequences highlighting taekwondo along with the sword fighting. Not to mention sumptuous costumes and a rich color tapestry that contrasts to the neutrals of many Japanese films.


Samantha Geary Jones said...

I really enjoyed this glimpse into, what for me, is a new area of entertainment. The music is pretty cool, too:)

Echoes of Olympus
A to Z #TeamDamyanti

M.C.V. Egan said...

I was not aware of this. The images, make-up and costumes beautiful. Hopping along

Unknown said...

Wow! I've not encountered this series though I love martial arts. I look forward to more.

Visiting from A to Z Challenge Drusilla