[K-DRAMA] The Moon Embracing the Sun (2012)

warning: may contain spoilers

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A novel turned into drama, The Moon Embracing the Sun depicts the love story of a Crown Prince and a Crown Princess set during Joseon Dynasty.

Plot:

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Heo Yeon Woo is a daughter of a high-ranking official. One day, she visits the palace with her mother to see his older brother’s civil service examination ceremony. She coincidentally meets Crown Prince Lee Hwon while she was chasing the butterfly and while the Crown Prince was trying to escape. Few days have passed, and it was announced that there would be a selection process of Crown Princess. All eligible teenage girls make their way to the palace in hopes of becoming Joseon’s Crown Princess, and Yeon Woo was included. The Crown Prince couldn’t forget Yeon Woo and he wanted her to become the Crown Princess. After competing with two other girls, Yeon Woo was selected as Crown Princess by the King. This made the Crown Prince happy but his older half brother, Prince Yang Myung was saddened as he secretly loves Yeon Woo. The Prince couldn’t become the Crown Prince even if he was older, because he was not a legitimate son. He couldn’t get the position as well as his love.

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The selection process also made the Queen Dowager and Minister Yoon angry as his daughter wasn’t selected as the Crown Princess. To be able to strengthen the power of their family clan, Minister Yoon’s daughter should be selected. Queen Dowager secretly orders head shaman Jang to cast a spell on Yeon Woo to make her ill and slowly die. However several years ago, Yeon Woo’s mother while still carrying Yeon Woo in her womb saved a shaman named Ari. Ari promised that she will protect the child as a way to repay her kindness. The night before Ari’s prosecution, she asked for Jang’s help to protect the child. Head shaman Jang will finally be able to fulfil Ari’s promise. Yeon Woo was given a magical potion by head Shaman Jang. Yeon Woo died and was buried. Head shaman Jang secretly digged her out shortly after. Yeon Woo resurrected but lost her memories. Everyone believed that she died including her family and the Crown Prince. Fast forward to eight years, Yeon Woo was given a new identity as a shaman called Wol. She successfully entered the palace with the head shaman. After seeing Wol, then Crown Prince, now the King, had suspicions since he resembled Yeon Woo so much. He ordered a secret investigation of Yeon Woo’s death again. Will Yeon Woo recall her memories and would she able to reclaim what was rightfully hers; the Queen of Joseon and the King’s love? And will the King find out the truth? What secrets will be revealed as he retraced the past one by one again?

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Opinions:

What got me into watching this drama? I really have a long list of dramas to watch per year and as a K-drama fan, you know you shouldn’t miss this out. I’ve heard so many comments about this and even learned that the ratings skyrocketed to 40%. It made me curious on how this drama became a national tv drama in Korea. I realised that it has the usual K-historical drama or sageuk concepts like evil villains trying to ruin the lives of the leads, political issues, and many killings. It seems like it’s very common that characters die or get killed in historical dramas more than in rom-com dramas. Well, I just stated an obvious fact. So if you’re very sensitive to characters dying, better be prepared when watching sageuk. Historical dramas wasn’t my favourite genre before but it became an interesting genre for me as I was introduced to shorter historical dramas and they were not serious all the time. After watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Rooftop Prince and Gu Family Book, my view of historical dramas completely changed, and I have decided to add historical dramas among my favourite genres.

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Going back to The Moon Embracing the Sun, it has the same concept of a usual historical drama. Political and romance were more emphasized as well as adding a little of comedy and action. It was a simple and sincere love among the two leads, but their love was hindered by political conflicts and selfish decisions. It was an interesting start with the child actors but the storyline became bland as they incorporated ‘amnesia’ into the plot. Amnesia was heavily used in many many dramas all over the world so I was left a bit disappointed. The middle part became draggy and it didn’t made me look forward to the next episodes.

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The chemistry between the two leads were lacking. I loved the younger version’s chemistry better. I think it could be because Gain In is older than Soo Hyun or maybe they weren’t just that physically compatible on the screen. This pairing was easily forgotten. The relationship between the servant and the King was the best of the best. It’s my favourite ‘couple’. It seemed that they showed more chemistry that the two leads. The servant really caught everyone’s attention as he was trying to be funny all the time. Even if it was funny, the things that he’s saying makes sense and he really loves the King wholeheartedly. lol If you’re going to ask me what will I remember the most in this drama or which scenes are my favourites? My answer is definitely the scenes with the servant! For such a small role, I will definitely remember Hyung Sun the most.

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Aside from the servant, my favourite parts were the first six episodes. These 5-6 episodes were all childhood scenes so they were acted out by child stars. I really wished that they had a story of their own. They were so perfect for their roles that they can manage by themselves for the whole 20 episodes. Loved the lead actors’ acting and their chemistry. They seemed very natural and cute. Even the supporting characters gave their all as they portrayed their own roles in such a promising and cute way. In my opinion, the child actors did much better than the adult actors. The child actors really left a deep impression on me as well as other watchers. I wished that just they did not grow up.

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Characters:

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Kim Soo Hyun as King Lee Hwon — First things first, he really matured a lot from Dream High. He showed a completely whole new character and image of him. I must say he deserves all the attention he’s getting now. I’m not a big fan of him, but I must admit that he did so well in this drama. He can be funny, serious and emotional any time any place. I love all the facial expressions and emotions he showed. Even the crying scenes were touching and real. His acting skills definitely improved and he really did his ‘homework’. He even beat other top actors in Baeksang Awards and won Best Actor for that year. Soo Hyun impressed me a lot in this drama. I might think of watching You Who Came From the Stars sooner than soon. lol

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Han Ga In as Heo Yeon Woo / Shaman Wol — I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that Han Ga In wasn’t the best choice for this role as Heo Yeon Woo. I’ve read so many comments about her and most of them did not like Ga In’s performance. I have nothing against Ga In as I’ve watched her in Witch Yoo Hee. Her looks were suitable for the role; elegant and innocent. Even if her looks passed, her acting skills didn’t exceed my expectations. I really have no expectations or whatsoever from the start but seeing Kim Soo Hyun’s acting surprised me so I kind of expected that Ga In would do the same. Sad thing was Ga In’s acting abilities cannot be at par with Soo Hyun. I really noticed a gap between the two lead’s performance. One problem of her was that she lacks facial expressions. I’m not sure if it’s the limitations of the role or not, but I often see her pondering and just gazing. Sometimes I don’t know if she’s happy, sad, etc. I loved the younger version more for showing elegance and acting abilities at the same time.

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Jung Il Woo as Prince Yang Myung — I haven’t seen him in any drama yet but I was familiar with him. My first impression when he first appeared in this drama was I felt that this role didn’t suit him. I don’t know if it’s just me or my image of Il Woo is a gentleman or boy next door but not a funny and quirky guy. His face doesn’t match up the character. I really love the child version more. Lee Min Ho was more natural, like the role was really meant for him. Also, it seemed that this character wasn’t utilised to the fullest. He didn’t shine much in this drama. Why does he need to travel all the time? He should get a love line of his own or maybe a happy ending. Still, Jung Il Woo was a nice addition to the cast as we get to see another cutie actor aside from Soo Hyun.

Ending (spoilers):

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The ending was quite predictable; the part when Prince Yang Myung became allies with the Minister and tried to kill the king. I mean, come on, it’s the last episode! Leads don’t die and Prince Yang Myung doesn’t like to be the king in the first place. It was a happy ending as we get to see King and the real Crown Princess, Heo Yeon Woo together in the end. It was also sad because people’s lives were sacrificed. I pitied Seol as she died trying to protect Orabeoni. It made me confused at the same time on who she really liked. I really thought she liked the swordsman that’s why she learned the skills to be a swordswoman. In the end of the drama, she liked Orabeoni after all. One thing that was unexpected was Prince Yang Myung’s suicide. Why did he have to die? I guess it has something to do with there can be no two suns or moon, so both the Prince and the Queen died. On a happy note, the last scene was still funny as ever as we get to see the servant show off his gayageum skills. Despite of all unfortunate things that happened, it’s still considered a happy ending.

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Soundtrack:

The soundtrack has 21 tracks but only 5 were songs and the rest were instrumentals. I do not find the soundtrack very appealing unlike other dramas, but listening to the songs made me remember the scenes from the drama. “Back in Time” by Lyn is the main theme of the drama. It reminds me of the palace or royalty. “Under the Moonlight” by HeOra literally reminds me of the moon; the scenes wherein both the leads were together outside during the night. Kim Soo Hyun’s fans will definitely be happy since he also contributed to the soundtrack. He sang “Only You” and from the song, I think he could definitely pass as a singer.

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Final Thoughts:

2012 was a year when many good historical dramas were released. Sadly, I preferred Queen In Hyun’s Man and Rooftop Prince over this drama. I think it made a difference because I’ve watched many historical dramas already and it seems that they all have similar plots. Moreover, this drama used ordinary plot like amnesia which made it less exciting for me. The plot wasn’t the best because it was predictable in many parts. Actors were great except for the female lead and I loved the child actors’ performance the most. Interesting start but dragged a lot during the middle. It could have been cut short to 16 episodes. All in all, I really think this drama was overrated. The 40% ratings were questionable; if Koreans watched it for Kim Soo Hyun, then that is reasonable and acceptable. But if they watched it for the story, maybe it’s my problem that my taste is different from others. >.<

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Rating: 6/10

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