So after few months of hiatus from watching Korean drama series, I decided that it’s time to take a look at my watchlist and see what’s interesting.
And given my personal bias to saeguks (Korean historical period dramas), it’s a given that I’ll pick one from the genre. So Hwarang it is.
It’s a historical series set during the time of Silla’s 24th monarch, King Jineung. It focuses on the establishment of Hwarang and their adventures as they grow up to real men while at the same time honing their combat skills to become their nation’s future leading warriors.
It was initially presented as a light-hearted story with lots of pretty faces, and I think it’s a nice move to somehow set proper expectations for the viewers. Saeguks are notable for their serious and heavy feel with lots of bloodshed and betrayal at its midst, so seeing all those bubbly, smiling Hwarang faces gave a fresh start for the story – something which I feel good about. (We could all use some pretty faces on screen!)
I finished the series, of course. And while I generally like the show, there were notable ‘wow’ and ‘meh’ moments which I know have greatly affected the impact of the story.
The ‘WOW’ stuff
The six main Hwarang cast
The promotional posters for this show didn’t lie. The Hwarangs are pretty, a real eye-candy. Well, not everyone, but at least it’s true for the six main characters. The cast was stunning and characterization was on point. It’s pretty much easy to tell who is who amidst from their uniform outfits and hairstyles. They each just stand out in their own ways, and that’s a plus for the story.
Ban Ryu (Do Ji-han) and Soo Yeon (Lee Da In) pair
I swear. If there’s an OTP on this show my money’s on this pair. They’re not even the main pair, but every time they show up, I just can’t help but melt into a puddle of goo! They’re awkward and cute and the exact opposite of each other, and…I mean what’s not to love?
Ban Ryu and Soo-ho (Choi Minho) banters
Yes. Ban Ryu here, Ban Ryu there, I just like his character. And I think what makes him more notable is the balance that it creates with his mortal nemesis Soo-ho. They have the typical ‘cat and dog’ relationship, which normally tends to attract viewers to pick a side. In their case, I guess most end up loving them both together. It’s just a pleasure watching them fight and argue like their family honor depended on it.
They add life to the show quite literally.
The adorable Suk Han-sung (Kim Taehyung)
And I’m not writing this because I’m an Army. Suk Han-sung’s character fascinated me because while he had minimal appearances in the series, his character was one of my most unforgettable ones.
He was the typical example of someone who’s been forced to do something just because he is the family heir. Even from the start, it was obvious that he’s not fit for combat. He wasn’t destined to be a Hwarang, but he left the show a real one. I’m not spoiling anything.
And yes, Taehyung did really well in bringing to life Suk Han’s character. Adorable!
King Jinheung (Park Hyung-sik) and his utter majestic glory
You know those times when the story start to suck but you hold on anyway because of that single character you really like? Jineung is that character for me. He looks good, has a nice personality, and pretty much consistent all the way. Hwarang’s story had its own weak points but King Jineung and the anticipation of seeing him take the throne kept me watching.
And I’m glad I did.
Now for the ‘MEH’ stuff
The Queen (Kim Ji-soo) and Princess (Seo Ye-ji)
If it’s a saeguk, a powerful royal family is a given. I did like the casting of Queen Ji Soo and Princess Sook Myung, but their characterization and impact to the story just failed. I don’t know, but they lack the feeling of authority and fear you get given the roles they played.
They did lots of queenly and princess-like act, but nothing that makes them memorable.
I think Park Seo Joon (played Sun Woo) and Go Ara (Ah Ro) did well in their acting. It’s just that, I don’t feel their chemistry. And because of that, I’m not convinced of their romance too, if that makes sense.
I’m happy for them, but I can still enjoy the show without the romantic aspect in their relationship.
Ministers of Silla
The thing about ministers in most saeguks I’ve seen, is they usually end up conspiring against the royal family. They’re a group of old, tenured politicians who want to own the nation by themselves.
Same goes for this series. Unfortunately, all the plotting failed spectacularly without even showcasing how deadly the ministers’ ambitions can be. Park Young-Shil’s (Kim Chang-wan) character had that potential. Sadly, it went undeveloped up to the very end.
I find Hwarang a nice watch. It feels refreshing and has a lovely cast I’d grown to like. It’s not something I recommend, though for those who’re looking for saeguks with tightly-knitted plot and outstanding characters.
If you’re looking for a Scarlet Heart Ryeo or Queen Seon Deok -type of saeguk, this one is not for you.
But if it’s a relaxing and fun period drama you’re after, go give this a try!