‘Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo’ Tugs at the Heartstrings

October 27, 2016

It was announced around 2010 that the hit Chinese novel series Bu Bu Jing Xin (Scarlet Heart) was picked up for a drama adaptation. Several controversies contributed to the hype. Another hit drama Gong (Palace) was accused of plagiarizing Scarlet Heart. Due to Gong‘s popularity and its controversial ending, China’s SARFT issued a ban on any time travel stories in TV dramas. Thankfully, Scarlet Heart was already approved by then and was not affected.

Fast forward to 2016, the novel was adapted into a Korean drama titled Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and broadcast all over the world simultaneously. Continue reading for my first impression of Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.

…this story [is] set up in the early Goryeo regime. Hae Soo, a 25-year-old girl from modern era got transported back to Goryeo dynasty and got trapped in the conflicts and struggles between princes of Wang’s House.

DramaWiki

First Impression

I give it 9 points out of 10! So far I’ve been really impressed by Scarlet Heart Ryeo and enjoy watching it every week. The story is generally the same as the Chinese version except it takes place in ancient Korea. One difference is that they put more background story on the Fourth Prince, Wang So, to make him more interesting. This was a very welcome change because I can sympathize with his character more. It was also easier to understand why Hae Soo would fall in love with him. There are more differences but I don’t want to spoil it.

Overall, the Chinese version was more slow and “talky” whereas the Korean version is more romanticized with lots of action. With all the differences, new characters and situations, it makes me really curious to see how this story will unravel.

Wang Wook, Hae Soo, and Wang So. Photo © NBCUniversal & YG Entertainment

Wang Wook, Hae Soo, and Wang So. Photo © NBCUniversal & YG Entertainment

The Acting

Despite not all the actors being A-list stars, they all did a really good job in portraying the characters and getting the emotion across. I especially want to give kudos to IU for her portrayal of Hae Soo. I liked seeing how her personality changed over the years in the story. I can really see Ruo Xi’s character (the original Chinese version of the female lead) in Hae Soo. IU has brought her back to life, albeit in ancient Korea. I’m also able to sympathize with Hae Soo more than Ruo Xi due to the extra back story and character interactions.

Also, I can’t praise Lee Joon Ki enough as the ruthless Wang So. His acting and facial expressions are so realistic, a mere look of his eyes will give you chills.

The Music

The soundtrack is also splendid and catchy despite many complaints that it sounds too modern for a historical series. It includes semi-upbeat pop songs, ballads, and even some rap. The way I see it is that since Hae Soo is from modern times, the story is shown in her perspective. Therefore it’s only appropriate that the accompanying music is sort of contemporary. For me, it’s not distracting at all and fits well with the scenes. I mean it’s not that they don’t have any other music because there are several instrumental tracks that sound very ancient style.

Hae Soo and Wang Wook. Photo © NBCUniversal & YG Entertainment.

Hae Soo and Wang Wook. Photo © NBCUniversal & YG Entertainment.

The Hype is Real

Scarlet Heart Ryeo has garnered over two billion online views in China alone! It’s also a very popular forum topic in which die-hard fans keep up-to-date everyday with actor news, gossip, episode previews as well as in-depth episode/character analysis, theories and debates. From the heated discussions about which prince Hae Soo should end up with to the constant number of newbies who sign up for the forums just to share their thoughts on the latest episode is just mindblowing. It’s clear that Scarlet Heart has once again captured everyone’s hearts with its heart-wrenching story and characters. Let’s just hope that we can all survive the finale next week.

Props to the screenwriter for doing an amazing job! It really takes talent and probably many sleepless nights to adapt an immensely popular Chinese story. Can you imagine having to fit it somehow to Korean history, add new characters and plot to make it more interesting and/or relevant all while keeping the feel of the characters and theme authentic? This was no easy feat. As of writing this blog post, I’m at episode 19 out of 20 and am getting kind of disappointed that it’s ending so soon.

New to the drama? Things of note…

For the guys, you’ll enjoy Scarlet Heart Ryeo way more than Scarlet Heart simply for the fact that it’s very fast-paced with palace intrigue, politics, and action scenes.

There are actually two versions of Scarlet Heart Ryeo out there. The Korean SBS TV version is considered the director’s cut version. It all started with unsatisfactory ratings and complaints in Korea which prompted the team to re-edit the drama, often adding and/or removing certain scenes, adding dialogue and even changing the music.

If you’re not watching from Korea, most likely you’re watching it online at major streaming websites and that is the original version sold to various countries for simultaneous broadcast. The re-edited version was not ready (or even planned I believe) at the time they sold it. If you see an SBS logo at the top right of the video, you’re watching the re-edited version.

I can’t exactly say which version is better. The original version has some jarring editing mistakes in later episodes. If you really like the story, I highly recommend you to watch both.

The article written above is purely my own thoughts and opinions. Your opinions may differ. Any offense caused by my rants and ramblings is unintentional. Thank you for understanding.
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