Hwarang Review: Oh, Those Flower Boys

For a number of years now I have put off watching the popular Kdrama Hwarang, because it just looked to girlie for me. And it is girlie, very girlie, but it’s also a pretty impressive coming-of-age story, too. Hwarang means “flowering knights” and is a story about an elite fighting force of young men back in the Three Kingdoms time period, specifically the Kingdom of Silla.

The drama bounces between being campy and not taking itself seriously to heart-wrenching, emotional scenes, and great fight scenes. The music also alternates between bubbly pop and more period appropriate movie music. Starring way too many pretty young men to mention, the main leads are Park Seo Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?), who plays a character nicknamed “Dog-Bird,” and Park Hyung Sik (Happiness), who plays the hidden king, Ji Dwi. The two have a love triangle with Ah Ro, played by the beautiful Go Ara (You Are All Surrounded).

Silla is a country like many in which there are rich and poor and not a lot in between. The monarchy rules by a “sacred bone” system, which means that if you’re related to the royals you are noble. Dog-Bird comes to the city with his friend, who (spoiler) tragically dies. During this time, Queen Jiso, who is holding the throne for her son, the King Ji Dwi, until she feels he is ready, decides to put together a fighting force of noble, young, beautiful men. Flower boys. Dog-Bird ends up in this elite force along with the Ji Dwi, who is tired of, well, not being king. Their bromance is great and really the focus of the show as Silla eventually has two possible kings vying for its future.

The acting overall was great, but I do have to agree with some that Go Ara was miscast here as the leading lady. In some scenes she was very good, in many others, she just didn’t fit the story or the time period or something. A lot of her acting mannerisms were just like her acting in You Are All Surrounded. Although I liked her in that, her acting just didn’t work for me here, and although she has amazing eyes, I think they actually were a distraction in this. Her character was also not written the greatest, so the fault certainly does not fall all on her shoulders. There was also more chemistry between her and the king than the lead, Dog-Bird. And the main romance was tainted for me because they kept pretending to be brother and sister. Talk about killing romance. The secondary romance in the show, however, is highly satisfactory, with an adorable opposites attract, very sweet couple.

Probably the most distracting thing in the show, however, was the queen. She had a lisp. I don’t know if the actress simply has a lisp or if this was intentional, but it started to drive me nuts. Kim Ji Soo, was otherwise very good in her role, though, a ruler one loves to hate and who in the end garnered much sympathy. It was a bit odd, but kind of funny how one of the Hwarang, Choi Min Ho’s (Yumi’s Cells) character, falls for her. He’s a flirt who’s had all the other girls, so in a way it makes sense, but it’s a pretty big age gap. Min Ho was actually quite good in this. His acting hasn’t impressed me much in other things. He also has very good stage presence, and hands down, I think was the best looking Hwarang. It’s interesting that even with the long hair, jewelry, and pastel outfits, these guys still manage to look manly somehow. You are what you are, no matter how you’re dressed.

This show probably wouldn’t be the first Kdrama I would recommend, but it’s not too bad, despite it’s length of 20 episodes. As usual, it could have been shorter. The “adults” in the cast were all very good, many of them veteran drama actors. Always like to see Sung Dong Il (Reply 1997), as he’s like everyone’s dad in whatever he’s in. He’s got a great, fatherly aura about him. The best was the evil nobleman Park Young Sil, played by Kim Chang Wan (It’s Okay to Not Br Okay). Kim is great at playing villians and sometimes I was actually rooting for him to take down the queen and the royal family. Yes, it ultimately is very girlie, but very manly in many ways as well.

My next drama watch will be Doctor Prisoner starring Namkoong (or Namgoong) Min of the awesome Awaken. I’ve got a couple of thrillers on my list with this guy and they are definitely his genre.

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