The highly anticipated return of popular screenwriter Kim Eun Sook has left many kdrama fans in tears; strangely enough I wasn’t one of them.
“Mr. Sunshine” is arguably THE most anticipated kdrama of 2018. The drama confirmed casting back in Mid-2017, not long after “Goblin” ended, catching wave of the immense popularity “Goblin” collected.
“Mr. Sunshine” is the third collaboration between Kim Eun Sook and director Lee Eung Bok, it was given that the cinematography would be great and indeed its one beautiful looking drama.
“Mr. Sunshine” is like your drunken amusing dramatic friend who takes you on many rides here and there, that friend entertains you with many storie but none of them specifically relate to the other, that’s the best way I could describe the premiere of “Mr. Sunshine.”
Let us discuss “Mr. Sunshine.”
Episode 1 Recap
Each episode is 1 hour and 13 minutes long which could either be an interesting ride or incredibly long, thankfully, I loved the rides, they were long and at parts tad boring but overall amusing.
Episode 1 introduces us to far too many characters than we could possibly remember, a lot of people die, a lot of our antagonist parents die and quite honestly I didn’t know who was who, some of these characters names were never obviously addressed, I had to go back to the drama’s plot outline and the characters and actors names at least 5 times to guess who was who.
Its very confusing to say the least!
It shows a glimpse of the difficult life those average people led and how much each of them suffered. Our hero Eugene Choi played by Lee Byung Hun is someone who’s been abandoned by his country, he stumbled upon this man who convinces this other American dude to take him to America.
There he faces hardships, discrimination and a lot worse, he grows up keen on adopting his American identity fully. He doesn’t want to be called a Korean understandably so, he’s been mistreated and his parents were killed for a very silly reason.
Things escalated so quickly, our lead male character spends most of his time looking back on his dark past. Hee is always staring into the distance, that’s basically the majority of what he does for episode 1.
Our lead female Ae Shin played by rising actress Kim Tae Ri, the character also lost both her parents shortly after her birth. Her parents fought for their country’s freedom while a traitor chose to sell them for a bar of gold.
Her parents were played by Kim Ji Won and Jin Goo; sadly, they both die for their country. It was an honorable death but still took me by surprise.
After a long time passes by, all of our main characters have grown up and become adults.
Towards the end of episode 1, we’re introduced to Byun Yo Han’s character; his grandfather is the same man who had Eugene Choi’s parents killed. He seems to be different from his grandfather.
Episode 1 is basically about 4 main characters and other 5 to 8 supporting characters back stories. This is why in short, episode 1 can be summed with what I told you above, that’s basically what you care about most at this stage. I would recommend you see the first episode again, its too confusing and presents a lot of information, information that you’d digest better at second viewing.
Episode 1 Review
I must say, the child actor of Eugene Choi was an excellent choice; he is an exceptional child actor with potential. His teary performance, as well as line delivery, was so great. He plays such an integral role and he pulled it off so well.
Too bad I didn’t give a shit about the death of his parents or the death of Ae Shin’s parents or really anybody’s death.
10 minutes into the drama we’re forced to care about those main characters and sympathize with their deaths but with all honesty, I haven’t warmed up to any of them yet, so I really couldn’t care less about either of our main leads.
I think if they had waited for an episode or two, we could have easily established a connection with those characters, then, the death of any of them will hit us really hard.
I was honestly impressed by the level of violence used in the first episode, but I can’t say everyone was excited like me.
I am a horror fan and I appreciate it when my kdrama goes the extra mile to show the real unfiltered horrific side of war and how innocent people lose their lives for the sake of the greedy clueless rulers who probably have no idea whats going on.
Its heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time!
The drama is 24 episodes long. Which means we have A LOT of time, the first episode could’ve easily been edited better to help us understand the struggle of the lead characters without being all over the place.
With pre-produced dramas, I always have problems with the editing. “Mr. Sunshine” was supposed to be completely pre-produced but they didn’t have time to complete the filming ahead of the premiere.
They started back in November 2017 and are still filming I believe, you could say some of the footage were left on the shelf for a while. So lets call it half pre-produced (if that even makes sense).
The editing of this drama is going to be crucial because if its badly done there is a good chance that the audience end up losing interest.
If the editing team used the first episode to focus on two leads at a time, it would’ve came out way better in my opinion, but they rushed it because they wanted us to familiarize us with various characters in a short span of time so they could move on to episode 2.
I also thought that we could’ve easily been fine without the first minutes of the drama as they add no value except for that grand entrance to assure you Lee Byun Hun is leading this damn drama, guess he had to be introduced first and in a dramatic matter! he had to walk slowly in well-made backdrop of 1870~ America.
“Mr. Sunshine” is about more than five main characters, which I appreciate. I remain hopeful but slightly scared they will ruin it.
Episode 2 Recap
The second episode is a lot better in my opinion. The editing is also better here. It might be because we were familiar with those characters, of course, we needed to be reminded of some of them, but still, it was nice.
Ae Shin is a fighter just like her parents. She also believes she can do something about those people harming Joseon. She gets into an argument with her grandfather for reading newspapers about the current political situation.
Eventually, the grandfather gives in and sends her with Jang Seung Goo, a gunman who lost his father to the Americans. He teaches her all she needs to know about guns.
We spend a solid 25 minutes of Tae Ri’s superb acting in a scene that eerily reminds me of Kung Fu panda, that scene where the panda is taken to the mountains to train with that rat teacher I believe!
Eugene Choi succeeds in a mission and gets deployed to Joseon where he’s supposed to ‘take care’ of a man who’s destroying America’s reputation.
When he tries to take down that traitor, he’s surprised another gunman beat him to it.
Then its mortal-combat style running-on-the-roof between assassin ninjas. After it all ends, the two meet at the street and exchange looks and some dialogue.
They both suspect each other but have no absolute proof. They part ways.
We’re also introduced to Yoo Yeon Seok’s character (Goo Dong Mae); he is sporting a mustache and lookin’ fine. He searches through the house of the man Ae Shin killed the other day.
Eugene Choi begins questioning; ironically enough and without any clear explanation he aims to find the killer. He learns that Ae Shin was one of the people present at the time the shooting took place, eventually; they manage to convince Ae Shin to visit and be questioned by him.
Just before the episode ends, we’re introduced to Hee Na (played by Kim Min Jung) the owner of the hotel Eugene Choi staying at. She is elegant but feisty and fights for her employees.
She seems to have a thing with Goo Dong Mae, after she injures her hands defending one of her servants; he helps wash the blood off.
The episode ends with Ae Shin and Eugene Choi covering each other’s mouths so they could confirm their suspicion.
Episode 2 Review
Episode 2 was also fun and entertaining. I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Byun Yo Han, I am a huge fan. He appeared in the first episode for a couple of minutes and then disappeared.
Halfway through the second episode, I understood the main poster reference, I thought it was lame; they were both covering each other’s mouths. Finally, I understood why! Its still slightly cringy but it holds significance for both characters and is an integral part of their relationship development.
So far, its early to judge if this is well written or not. As for the directing and the cinematography, they’re both amazing. The costume design is also impressive.
The drama’s budget is one of the biggest I’ve ever heard of; it cost around $38 million, so it better be this good.
I don’t know how to feel about the pairing yet. I don’t hate Lee Byung Hun and Kim Tae Ri together and I think its too soon to judge whether it was a good idea to pair them together or not.
Kim Tae Ri has a gentle face, she is 27 years old but looks like she could be mistaken for someone who’s 21. I fear that her gentle youthful look might affect her chemistry with Lee Byung Hun who clearly looks like he is in his 40s.
The OST of the drama sounds amazing, as expected! I can’t wait to see who will sing for this drama. I am hoping for Ailee, XIA, Punch, Gummy, Suran, Wheesung, Jung Seung Hwan and if possible Crush.
Since its writer Kim Eun Sook’s drama I bet that the top singers will be releasing songs. I can’t wait for whats to come. Its probably the part I am most excited for as weird as it may seem.
This is certainly Kim Eun Sook’s most ambitious project. She is not my favorite writer by any means because I never felt not even once that she tried to challenge the troops of kdrama clichés that we’re so used to.
With this project, she needs to double check the facts and the history; this isn’t your basic hot and bothered rich chaebol who cries a river over the poor vulnerable girl with fighting spirit.
Unlike any of her other dramas, this time she’s confined with the history of her country, she cannot stray away as much as she wants if she wants to play it right. With all her previous dramas, she was the one with the upper hand, she was the one who set the environment and toyed around with the characters background, this time she is limited by historical data and events that she cannot overlook as she writes her story.
This project will determine if writer Kim Eun Sook is actually as good as a lot of people claim her to be. This time she doesn’t have those two leads that are too beautiful for their own good.
Lee Byung Hun is famous in Korea and respected but he doesn’t generate the same oppa-buzz as Gong Yoo or Lee Min Ho for example because he’s passed that age.
The same goes for Kim Tae Ri, but its because she’s just started, she is a rookie who debuted in 2016 unlike Park Shin Hye or Song Hye Kyo, both have huge fan base that’ll help carry the drama even if the story is just average.
This is why international kdrama fans were excited about this project but not as excited as they would’ve been if for example Park Bo Gum led the drama. #JustAThought #Don’tHateMe
That being said, I find 24 episodes too much for me. I like short dramas and follow Korean dramas for their short quick narrative. 24 episodes are too much for me but that’s just my personal taste. I know a lot of kdrama fans are so happy because there are 24 episodes.
Adding to that, I am not particularly a fan of either Lee Byung Hun or Kim Tae Ri enough to keep watching without complaining, the story must be good enough to keep me glued to my screen.
We’ll have to wait and see how it goes!
So what did you guys think of the first two episodes?