Exploring Korean Dramas: City Hunter

city hunter promo

Complex is the perfect word to describe City Hunter.  All of the developments in the show are well thought out and actualized.  When Yoon Sung dons the mask, catches the bad guys in his carefully laid traps and executes super cool martial arts moves, it’s exhilarating.  But the real highlight is the relationships.

jin pyo and yoon sung at oddsWe have Jin Pyo and Yoon Sung, in their total mess of a father-son relationship.  They’re working toward the same goal, but have entirely different endgames.  As Yoon Sung gains more independence he realizes just how much he’s been manipulated by Jin Pyo, but despite that he can’t help but love him.  We have plenty of mustache-twirling from the unscrupulous politicians, so this layered relationship between our primary protagonist and antagonist is delicious.

I can barely bring myself to write about Yoon Sung and his mother without launching into another rant about Doctor Who Season 6.  I also don’t want to spoil anything, so all I can say is: Yes, this.  This.  The single most emotionally satisfying relationship on the show is that between Yoon Sung and his mother.  It’s a slow burn, but when it finally reaches its pinnacle, oh, it is perfect.  Major props to actress Kim Mi Sook as Kyung Hee; when we meet the mother again 30 years later she’s a steady but somber woman.  All it takes is one mention of her son, or anyone who might know him, for us to see that frantic mother again in an instant.  Hers is the most superb acting on the show.

rare carefree momentThe romance, which for me is usually the primary draw of a kdrama, feels secondary.  When there’s so much other awesome happening, what does it matter?  There are plenty of other kdramas for fluff.  But don’t let that fool you: you’ll be rooting for their happy ending.  Na Na has her own reasons to want to see some of these politicians behind bars, and I cheered when she asked to join the City Hunter (and cheered even louder when he let her, instead of sidelining her to protect her as many brooding heroes attempt).  They make the perfect team, and with 20 episodes we get enough light moments of cute (grocery shopping scenes in kdramas, why always so adorable?) to keep us going.

Even if you’re not interested in kdramas as a whole, you want to watch City Hunter.  It’s got a lot in common with Batman, and who doesn’t love Batman?  Only it comes with less brooding than we get from Bruce Wayne, which honestly is a bit of a relief.   But City Hunter doesn’t need the comparison; it has gorgeous Lee Min Ho it stands on its own feet as an exciting, blood-pumping, addicting series.

Kdrama tropes to watch out for: As with any media kdramas have their own stable of tropes.  City Hunter, excellent show that it is, avoids the worst (or at least making the worst of them).  It just contains one that requires some explanation: Daddy Long Legs.

pretty lee min ho

This has nothing to do with Daddy Long Legs. I just wanted to look at pretty Yoon Sung some more. Mmm.

A Daddy Long Legs is a man who sends anonymous encouraging notes to the woman he secretly admires.  The notes don’t tend to be overtly romantic in nature; they’re usually just cheerful pick-me-ups.  The name comes from 1912 American epistolary novel Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.  In that the heroine is supported by a mysterious benefactor to whom she must write monthly letters.  She knows nothing about the man, other than that he’s tall and long-legged.

The book has a number of older film adaptations, but in 1990 it was revived in Asia with a Japanese anime series.  Nearly all of the second male leads in kdramas are a type of Daddy Long Legs to the female lead, and the actual title is even used for some.  Kim Na Na has a Daddy Long Legs in City Hunter and he will be referred to as such, so now you’ll know what everyone is talking about.

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