The Kdramas of 2016: Q4 Roundup

Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

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The gist:

Hong Ra-on is an 18 year-old commoner who disguises herself as boy and is a “love guru” to men. She gets involved in an incident with Crown Prince Lee Yeong (disguised as a nobleman), not knowing that they would meet again once she enters the palace as a eunuch.

The good:

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The stunning and talented young cast. There was so much beauty jammed into our tiny screens, and I’m so pleased that their acting matched their good looks. 2016 was indeed Park Bo-gum’s year, as this drama sealed his status as a household name in South Korea after his breakout role in Reply 1988 (also from this year). Proof: he’s now referenced in other shows, next to Song Joong-ki (who happens to be his agency sunbae and hyung). He brought his character Lee Yeong to life with his microexpressions and elegant way of speaking.

But the other leads are not to be left out, as child star Kim Yoo-jung transitioned nicely into a beautiful leading lady. She doesn’t look nearly convincing as a real boy but she compensates with her solid acting. Idol-actor Jinyoung did well as the romantic Yoon-sung (but sorry, dude, I didn’t get second lead syndrome in this drama – the Crown Prince had me all the way), so did Chae Soo-bin, even though she entered a bit late on the show for her to matter so much to me. And how could I ever forget Kwak Dong-yeon as Kim Hyung/Gat Byung, who was so charismatic with his smoldering gaze and mane of glory? *swoooon*

It’s a well-crafted production.Sometimes you don’t need a mind-bending, out-of-the-box plot to have an amazing drama. I especially love each episode’s attention to small yet poignant moments, with perfectly balanced timing, remarkable music scoring, and compelling acting. The show was full of emotion and heart, and was able to paint everything clearly for the audience – from the lighthearted moments to the transition to angst and loneliness. It’s one of the dramas where I really think there’s great synergy among the staff and crew with the smooth and well-paced editing.

The bad:

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The urge to skip scenes. I personally am not a big fan of sageuk because of the politics – aka old men plotting and speaking in weird intonation. A “fusion” sageuk it may be called, but MDBC didn’t really escape the formula of a typical historical drama. If the main cast wasn’t on screen, I was more likely to tune out. In effect, I did suffer a little drop (just a teensy bit) in interest towards the end.

It’s historically inaccurate. Well this didn’t actually bother me as much, but I can see that the way the show changed history can be a bit disappointing – especially to those who treat historical dramas as a way to informally educate themselves about Korean history. Historical dramas bend details all the time, while keeping the general story intact. However, MDBC deviated a few degrees more than what a sageuk fan may have wanted. Also maybe since it’s youth drama, it had more angst and pining, and an overall contemporary feel which obviously bends the historical backdrop of the drama. But it really depends on the person whether he/she prefers entertainment value or historical accuracy. As for me, as long as the narrative makes sense, I’m okay with it.

The verdict:

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Moonlight Drawn by Clouds is one of my favorite dramas of 2016, mainly because of the flawless production quality and the committed acting. I personally thought it would be the underdog amidst the other highly-anticipated dramas (read: Scarlet Heart Ryeo), but the sheer delight it brought the audience merited the attention. While the plot is something we’ve seen a hundred times before in some other form, its beauty lies with how the drama took us through the emotional journey of these characters. I didn’t expect to be laughing out loud and crying buckets too. At first I thought it was going to be a light and upbeat show that will bank on fluff and good looks, only for my heartstrings to be tugged within the first two weeks. Its high ratings are well-deserved, and the actors – especially Park Bo-gum – truly earned the recognition.

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