Those of you who know me, know that I'm a big fan of Korean dramas. It's been awhile since I've really found a show that has really captivated me and I'm currently totally reveling in Descendants of the Sun 태양의후예. And I'm not the only one since this show become a blockbuster success and total global sensation, breaking records for viewership in Korea and already reaching over 1.1 billion views on the Chinese cable service iQiyi. The drama which reportedly cost 11 million dollars to produce has already broke even with broadcast rights sold to China and Japan for $250,000 and $100,000 per episode, respectively. The 16 episode series is also being being exported to 25 other countries including the US, England, France, Italy, Germany, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Austria, Finland, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore. Descendants of the Sun is certainly establishing a precedence with it's astronomical popularity for Korean dramas worldwide. The BBC has even picked up on the phenomenon.
10 REASONS TO WATCH DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN
1. THE STORY
Descendants of the Sun centers around the love story between a volunteer surgical doctor and an elite special forces officer. There is an underlying theme that highlights humanity in the wake of peril woven throughout and the drama is a compelling mix of genres that balances drama, action, romance and comedy. It also refreshingly deviates from most of the standard K-drama tropes. I love my Korean dramas but they can be fairly formulaic. There are no love triangles, chaebols (wealthy heirs), birth secrets or convoluted revenge schemes and you actually see people at work. Kim Eun Sook who also wrote Secret Garden and Gentlemen's Dignity which I didn't care for and Heirs which I found unwatchable was one of the co-writers of this drama and I give her major props. There have been some really pleasant surprises and I'm never quite sure where the story is going to go from week to week. I will say that City Hall which she also wrote is one of my favorite dramas ever.
2. THE CHARACTERS
There are four main leads who are actually all likable in their own right. It's very common for the lead male to start off as a jerk and for the second female to be a raging bee with an itch. The male characters actually respect the women in their lives and the female characters are strong, independent and don't need to be defined by their male counterparts. There is also a pretty solid cast of supporting characters. The only hole is the villain Argus played by David Lee McInnis who was probably cast because he's creepy looking. Otherwise he's a really bad actor and his English inflections are weird considering he was born in the US.
Song Joong Ki couldn't have chosen a better project for his comeback post military service. Given the skyrocketing success and recognition he has received, this seems to be the role of a lifetime for him and Joong Ki absolutely owns the role of Captain Yoo Shi Jin. His stint in the army helped to bring out his masculine aura. Thanks to the power of a good haircut, he has never looked hotter. Yoo Shi Jin is a take charge, straightforward character who uses humor both to disarm and to cope. He has effectively brought this character to life and Joong Ki's natural boyish charm really plays to such an advantage here. Yoo Shi Jin utters some pretty cheesy lines at times but somehow they're not cringeworthy due to his smooth delivery and because they're coming out of his mouth. It also doesn't hurt that he has the most swoonworthy deep voice. If he were a more of a rugged male type some of those lines probably would come across kinda gross.
4. SONG HYE KYO
5. THE ROMANCE
The common cliché of characters who initially hate each other, only to fall in love later is cast aside here for mutual attraction at first sight and immediately acting on it. These characters don't play games and and speak honestly to one another. While Yoo Shi Jin is charmingly flirtatious in his ardent pursuit of Kang Mo Yeon, he always remains respectful and continues to persist despite her rejections. It's really cute how smitten he is. And it's very credible that no matter how deeply Kang Mo Yeon is drawn to Yoo Shin Jin, her practical side doesn't allow her to just give in to her feelings because of the dangerous nature of his job. It's pretty hot when she finally does though. These two have some scorching chemistry. I don't find the secondary romance as interesting since it's the typical being kept apart due to parental objection storyline and if their behaviour was reversed, he'd totally be considered a stalker. But I do like both of the characters enough to root for them. Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki have been caught up in dating rumors since being spotted together in NYC last month. The rumors have been denied by both their agencies which stated that they're just good colleagues. For some reason I feel like there's something more to that and I don't usually ship K-drama couples but I would totally ship these two especially if their real life chemistry is anything like their onscreen chemistry which is off the charts. Gah go get married and have beautiful babies you stunning pair! #songsongcouple
6. THE BROMANCE
The bromance between the characters of Yoo Shi Jin and Seo Dae Young played by Song Joong Ki and Jin Goo is as strong as any romance in the drama. They clearly have a solid friendship and know how to push each other's buttons which usually results in much hilarity. The contrast between Shi Jin's playfulness and Dae Young's stoicism is really fun to watch and their scenes and interaction are always a highlight.
Descendants of the Sun was partially filmed on location in Zakynthos, Arachova and Lemnosin in Greece and the backdrop of the brilliant turquoise Aegean Sea is especially spectacular to say the least. Navagio Beach which served as a key location has seen a sharp rise in tourism recently thanks to it's appearance in the drama.
7. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY
I've always enjoyed the photography and framing in Korean dramas because it's often symbolically meaningful as well as beautiful. They truly did an outstanding job with the visuals in this drama.
8. THE PRODUCTION
Unlike most Korean dramas which are produced under a live shooting system in which which scripts are issued a day before filming and editing is completed just a few hours before the episode is due to air, Descendants of the Sun was entirely pre-produced. This ensures a higher quality production but is considered risky in the Asian market since live shooting lets them adapt the story to public reaction. You can definitely see and feel the production value in how the action and disaster scenes are depicted.
9. THE CAMEOS
Episode 1 of Descendants of the Sun featured a hilarious cameo from Song Joong Ki's real life BFF Lee Kwang Soo. Lee Jong Hyuk appeared as Yoo Shi Jin's former commanding officer in a flashback sequence. There is also a cameo to look forward to from hot young actor Yoo Ah In who is said to be portraying a bank worker in an upcoming episode. He filmed it as a birthday gift for his good friend and agency mate Song Hye Kyo.
10. THE SOUNDTRACKSoundtracks usually serve to enhance the atmosphere of certain scenes and this one does just that with tracks like Yoon Mi Rae’s ‘Always,’ ‘EXO’s Chen feat. Punch’s ‘Everytime,’ Davichi’s ‘This Love,' Gummy's 'You Are My Everything, Kim Na Young and Mad Clown's 'Once Again'. Every track has been a chart topper becoming as popular on the drama itself. I adore all of them and even though I wanted to wait to purchase the full soundtrack, I've already bought a few on iTunes. My personal favorite so far is K. Will's 'Talk Love. It's so upbeat and fun! I'm also looking forward to Kim Junsu's song which was briefly previewed during the best confession scene in a K-drama ever!
Here is an English subbed trailer. Descendants of the Sun (태양의후예) is a 16 episode drama that currently airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 p.m. KST on KBS2. 10 episodes have aired so far. I'm so obsessed that I actually live streamed last week's episodes without subtitles. I understand a little Korean since I've been trying to learn but this is motivating me to learn faster. Descendants of the Sun has been translated into 32 different languages so far and can be seen exclusively on the video streaming site Viki.
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