When MASTER’S SUN (Joogoonie Taeyang) was recommended to me by @syzazulkiflee on Twitter, I had serious doubts. One word: ghosts. When you live alone in a country that loves to do horror films set in condominiums, it’s not really a welcome distraction. And I have to be honest, I don’t really watch dramas unless I know the cast. That’s why I probably miss out on a whole lot of interesting entertainment out there because on my own, I’d stick to what or who I know. Or what I read accidentally. But the promise of So Ji-sub and his sartorial choices in the drama perked my interest, aside from the romcom tag, even if it’s romcom-slash-horror.
And boy, am I glad I did not let my cowardice deter me from watching this Hong Sisters drama.
From episode 1, the cold, young master Joo-goon and the plain girl who can see ghosts Taeyang lured me out like a ghost on a Halloween trick or treat hunt. And I’m glad that this drama was a treat and not a trick considering that the Hong Sisters just came out from a BIG disaster, pun intended. It’s not just the Hong Sisters who can do pun, ei?
(A bit of explanation on the title: “joo goon” means “master” while “tae” means sun so it’s word play at its best)
But first an admission: this is my first So Ji-sub drama. I won’t apologise for not watching I’M SORRY I LOVE YOU because it had melo written all over it. This is also my first full-length Hong Sisters drama, I have vague memories of starting MY GIRL to see what the fuss was all about but for some reason, never got past the first episode. YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL? I skimmed through it, ‘s all.
And then, while watching episode 1 of MASTER’S SUN, it struck me that I have seen Gong Hyo-jin before. I realized she was in the 2001 Won Bin-starrer, GUNS & TALKS, one of my favorite Korean movies that I still watch every now and then. Knowing that, I was totally sold on this drama.
The chemistry between So Ji-sub and Gong Hyo-jin is made in drama laboratory heaven. They say leave your disbelief at the doorstep when it comes to fiction? Well, one does not have to believe that ghosts exist for this story to work. SJS and GHJ carry the drama from start to finish, but that’s not to say that they’re not ably supported by the secondary cast. Also, I have read that this is SJS’ first romcom and imo, he should do more comedy.
Props to the leads–and the writers–that they came up with characters who may not be easy to relate to (a girl who can see ghosts? Or an arrogant chaebol heir whose likes we’ve seen enough in Dramaland?) but were likeable, memorable and not just one-dimensional caricatures. I must say I was biased towards Joo-goon more than Taeyang but it’s merely a fangirl reacting to a charismatic actor onscreen (was SJS always this charming? I should watch more of his work); besides, I’ve always had the preference for the bad, tough guy who’s actually a softie inside. Yes, I have the Bad Boy Syndrome.
My other favorite character was Uncle VP. He cracked me up every time he was onscreen and it was only in the end that I finally figured out whose side he was on. Unlike Secretary Kim, who was cheering on Joo-goon and Taeyang from the get-go, Uncle VP seemed to be playing his cards around and it was just hilarious to watch him do that. Auntie VP was not so bad either even if it could have been easy to designate her as the resident witch who doesn’t want her nephew to end up with a nut case as a wife.
The characters were all very charming, even Tae Yi-rung (Kim Yoo-ri) who played the annoying cards at the beginning. But surprise, surprise, she grew on me and was endearing in her reverse role with Kang Woo (Seo In-guk), the bodyguard who has the least interest in her celebrity. Even loud-mouth bodyguard Lee Han-joo (Lee Jae-won) was likeable. I suppose it was because the script did not really linger too much on the angst and the evil and balanced it wonderfully with the humor.
The only character that was really annoying was Hanna (Hwang Sun-hee) but even this was “neutralized” by the fact that she’s playing a twin.
I like how the Hong Sisters humanized the characters and did not make them through and through evil or through and through good. The plight of the characters became realistic that you wanted to root for them even if juxtaposed against a fantasy premise.
Like Joo-goon, I don’t believe in ghosts. And that’s coming from someone whose relatives have the sixth sense. Imagine being told over dinner that a great-grandmother who has long been dead and I haven’t even met was sitting at the table too. Or being asked by the neighbors in the morning why there was such a large party at home the previous night and all the lights in the house were on as if it was a “ship about to set sail”. I’ve never seen ghosts and I don’t wish to; and sometimes it’s easier to not believe in something scary.
So yeah, in a way I could relate with MASTER’S SUN but more from the POV of Joo-goon. Like he said, the living is scarier than the dead. Holding on to that philosophy does not make this drama less scarier though. The first couple of episodes were scary but once you get used to the idea that there is no escaping ghosts in this drama, in the same way that Taeyang can’t escape them, then you’ll be fine. The combination of romance, comedy and horror, with witty word play to boot, made it such a fun watch. I was just worried what my neighbors would think, screaming one moment then laughing the next, and swooning too.
And I like how the Hong Sisters played with cliches like that scene at the subway between Tae Yi-rung and Kang Woo when he grabs her from the middle of a crowd and they walked away. Any other scene I would have gagged but they made it fun and breezy without any pretensions.
That scene too when Joo-goon and Taeyang end up having their first date at a wake. It couldn’t have been more apt and just the thought of it was hilarious.
And what could be more Dramaland cliche than amnesia? It was a good thing that they did not go the while-you-were-sleeping route and had the Hero fall in love with the Bad Girl while he couldn’t remember things. I’m glad they did not fall into that trap and that Joo-goon’s core persona, a calculating bastard, was still intact even if there were crucial parts of his memory that were missing.
There were also the clever plot twists, particularly, Joo-goon’s “death” scene when his ghost self shows himself to Taeyang. The irony could have ended in too much melo and angst but it played well, the bitter play of fate coming to fore.
The ghost stories are also heartwarming and contributed a lot in developing the romance more naturally. I like how it was not just about Joo-goon solving the 10-billion-dollar angst that he had carried over his kidnapping or Taeyang trying to run away from the ghosts then finding her “shelter”, or shall we say “ghostbuster” or “ghost repellant” in Joo-goon. Neither was it all about how a rich guy and a poor girl get together with ghosts in between. The characters actually grow up: in the case of Joo-goon, well, what else is new for cold marble chaebol heirs but acquire a real heart; and Taeyang learns to accept that this was her choice to keep seeing ghosts and learned how to handle it.
MASTER’S SUN is one of those dramas that made me take down notes because the lines were just worth noting. Some were downright hilarious too.
Here are my favorite Joo-goon quotes:
“There are people scarier than ghosts.”
“I already saw the sun when I woke up this morning. Do I have to see your face too?”
“If you are the sun I don’t want to see the morning again.”
“I don’t intend to become a teddy bear that you can hold and hug to sleep with.”
“Correct I’m not afraid of ghosts. I’m afraid of Tae Gong Shil.”
“Quiet. I’m thinking of how far I’ve come and how far I will go into the future following you.”
“When I die, I can visit her as a ghost.”
“So it’s true, you really shine bright like the sun.”
“She doesn’t just shine to dead people like you. I’m also blinded by her brightness.”
“Tae Gong-Shil is my sun without which the earth will be destroyed.”
“There’s someone who likes me and he’s not a ghost. He’s a pretty boy.”
“I always get fired because of ghosts. Now I get a job!”
“I think I’m the sun who can shine only for dead people.”
Joo-goon and Taeyang dialogue:
“My hand keeps wanting to grab and touch your body.”
“I’m not a cheap shrimp cracker that you can just grab at.”
“Bang Shil dressed in a blanket is Louis Jang’s muse? Since when?” – Uncle VP
“Seeing the master fall for you was like watching my child grow up under the sun.” – Secretary Kim
Of course I can’t write about MASTER’S SUN without mentioning the ghosts.
My favorites are: Coffee Ghost, Military Dog Ghost and Trashcan Ghost.
I cried lots over the military dog and the runaway soldier episode simply because I love dogs. But I also love that episode because it was the first time that Joo-goon found himself in danger and also giving in to the crazy notion that Taeyang indeed sees ghosts and doing something that proves he believes in her even if he couldn’t see nor hear what she could.
This is a Korean drama for crying out loud, of course the soundtrack would be awesome. My favorite songs are “Touch Love” by Yoon Mi-rae and “All About”.
Well, nothing is perfect. But these are just minor complaints that did not get in the way of my watching pleasure.
- The fact that Secretary Kim was the uncle of the twins and how he managed to conceal this crucial information from his master for 15 years. It only happens in Dramaland really.
- The Mirror Ghost. It was more like Snow White with the evil stepmother and the mirror but was it ever resolved? I don’t remember.
- Nothing much was explained about The Accident that led to Taeyang seeing ghosts. There were references but it would have been interesting to see a flashback. Heck, they could flashback on The Kidnapping but they couldn’t do that on The Accident?
- It was also disturbing how many of the support actresses had bits and pieces of Song Hye-kyo’s face. Or was I just seeing ghosts?
But like I said, these are just small quibbles that were otherwise glossed over by the engaging script, superb acting and wonderful production. It was obvious that money was poured into the effects and the set. Oh and So Ji-sub’s clothes.
Now, I need MASTER’S SUN DVD.
And posting this photo just because I love Gong Hyo-jin’s dress.
Speaking of dress, something has to be said about the shirts that Taeyang wears in the drama. They’re just screaming hilarity: JESUS SAVE ME and LOSER.
Definitely recommending this drama, not only for the Halloween, but even for Christmas. Though they don’t have a Santa Ghost.
Thanks again to @syzazulkiflee for the recommendation!
© Yasminka Lee (blogging since 2001). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the contents in Orange Jasmine Purple Yam without permission from the author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Yasminka Lee/Orange Jasmine Purple Yam with appropriate link to the original content.