I’m not a huge fan of Korean historical dramas, as you can tell by the sheer lack of them in my reviews, but I found one that was so wonderfully delicious I can’t help but shout it to the rooftops – Moonlight Drawn by Clouds!!! An excellent, excellent drama!
The best way for a girl to hide in plain sight is to disguise herself as a boy. Instructed by her mother to tell the world she is male, Kim Ra-On has lived her whole life as a boy named Hong Sam-Nom. When she was eight years old she was separated from her mother and raised by a man she referred to as (but was not) her father. Life was difficult but she managed to survive by being a romance counselor. One fateful day she poses as one of her clients to, on his behalf, meet the girl the man is interested in. However, a handsome scholar shows up instead and, through TWO cases of mistaken identity, Hong Sam-Nom and Crown Prince Lee Yeong meet, unaware of who the other is, and things go terribly (and hilariously) wrong.
To pay off a debt, Sam-Nom is given to the people who sell men to the palace to be eunuchs. And just how does a girl become the Crown Prince’s eunuch? Well, fate always finds a way to match up the two lovers that are supposed to be together. It doesn’t take long for Prince Lee Yeong to fall for his new, lovable eunuch, and what’s a prince to do when he begins to have feelings for a “man”?
Crown Prince Lee Yeong hasn’t let authority go to his head. He was raised by a kind mother who taught him how to be a king who listens to his people and uses his power to enrich their lives. Due to an incident involving a certain group trying to overthrow the government, Lee Yeong’s father, the King, suffers from paranoia and wants his son to take over. Lee Yeong doesn’t really want the job of Prince Regent but agrees to the position to ease his father’s burdens. He is aware of the fact that some of the King’s ministers are plotting against his father and Lee Yeong wants to protect the throne from getting in the hands of those treasonous men.
Although Hong Ra-On wants to live life as a woman she continues to disguise herself as a man out of respect and love for her mother’s wishes. Although she lives in fear of her secret being discovered she does her best in the role she was assigned as the Crown Prince’s eunuch. She liked Lee Yeong before she even knew who he really was and finds it difficult at times to be near the future King while hiding who she really is.
Kim Yoon-Sung knew the minute he met Hong Sam-Nom that he/she was really a woman but goes along with the charade for a while. He finally tells Ra-On he is aware of the fact that she is really a woman and does whatever he can to make sure her secret is not revealed. He offers to take her away from the palace and let her live as his woman, although he is fully aware of her feelings for the Crown Prince, but she kindly turns down the offer so she can remain by her master’s side. Kim Yoon-Sung and Lee Yeong were very close as children but the relationship grew distant when Kim Yoon-Sung’s evil aunt became the queen after the death of Lee Yeong’s mother.
Kim Byung-Yeon is the Crown Prince’s best, most trusted friend. He is a magnificent swordsman and protects Lee Yeong with his life. Although he is aloof and keeps to himself most of the time, he and Eunuch Hong (Ra-On) live together at Repentance Hall. He has been given secret orders to find the daughter of the man who began the failed uprising that killed hundreds of people and traumatized the King ten years earlier.
There are many other characters who add to the story. The Prince’s younger sister is darling. She’s a chubby-faced young woman whose love letter (from a man she’s never met) begins the whole story. There are two darling men who are new eunuch recruits at the same time Ra-On joins the palace servants. The queen is an evil woman whose only desire is power, at all costs. There’s also a scheming minister who plots to have his clan take over the throne. And I can’t forget the lovely, young, noble woman who has a kind heart and is truly in love with the prince.
Park Bo-Gum, who plays the part of Crown Prince Lee Yeong, began playing the piano when he was five and decided he wanted to be a singer/songwriter. He sent videos of himself to talent agencies and got several offers but after others suggested he would do well in acting, Bo-Gum changed his focus to being an actor and enrolled at Myongji University in the Film and Musical Studies department. He traveled to Italy, England, Switzerland, and France as a representative for the University’s cultural overseas exchange program. I watched this historical drama solely because it stars Park Bo-Gum. I first saw him in the music-related romance drama Tomorrow’s Cantabile and fell in love. I was so impressed with him that I remember thinking, “I hope he’s going to be in lots of other dramas”, and sure enough, he later played a pivotal role in the suspense thriller I Remember You. The guy’s a great actor but it doesn’t end there. He has a smile you can’t erase from your mind. It’s a teasing, seductive grin that just melts your heart. He is considered a new generation Hallyu star with colleagues using words like “kind” and “nice” to describe him. The media refers to him as the “National Man of Good Influence” and since he has fans that range from teens to grandmothers he is affectionately known as the “Nation’s Son-in-Law”. Advertisers say he has an “easygoing and high-class image”, a “bright and positive vibe”, and often mention his “boyishness and manliness” attributes, and his pop culture influence is referred to as “Bogum Magic.”
As I watched more and more I finally figured out why Kim Yoo-Jung, who plays Hong Ra-On, looked so familiar – she’s the girl/cat/love cell from the not-good Love Cells webdramas. I am so glad she is in this because now I realize it’s the Love Cells shows I don’t like, not her. I just needed to see her in something with substance, playing a character with depth, and act in a role she could sink her teeth into, like this one. I was immensely impressed with her acting as a young woman masquerading as a eunuch. You name it, the girl can act it – fear, sorrow, excitement, love… she’s wonderful at showing sincere, genuine emotions. Yoo-Jung has been in 30 TV dramas, one theatrical production, 20 motion pictures, two webdramas, 17 variety shows, one reality show, seven music videos, has held 10 ambassadorships, done 67 celebrity endorsements, and received 13 wins out of 22 award nominations over her 13 year entertainment career. Oh, did I mention she just turned 17 years old!? Yep! (If you did the math you know she debuted at the age of four. Wow.)
I was impressed with every single aspect of this drama. The directing, editing, writing, acting, action choreography, music, scenery, costumes… the entire drama is magnificent beyond words. One scene that really stands out as excellent is when Eunuch Hong falls into a lake and Prince Lee Yeong dives in to save her/him. First of all, you can certainly tell Park Bo-Gum was on his middle school varsity swim team. The dive he does is absolutely beautiful and he looks just like a seal in the shots of him swimming underwater. But the most impressive thing of all is the fact that everyone who ends up in the water is still soaking wet once they get out. Not just a little damp but completely dripping wet! It’s very noticeable and quite unusual for a Kdrama. Yeah! for keeping with reality and not just filming what may be more convenient or what might make the actors look better.
Here comes a bit of a spoiler, not a drama spoiler, really, but a kind of life spoiler. You see, I did a bit of research and found that Park Bo-Gum’s character was based on a real Joseon Crown Prince named Hyomyeon, born in 1809. He was considered a genius in literature and the arts (Lee Yeong has his own library in the drama) and created several court dances (Lee Yeong choreographs the dance Ra-On performs during a celebration). Out of the 53 court dances that still remain, 26 are ones he created. His best known dance is entitled “Dance of the Spring Nightingale” and he is considered to be one of the most important people in Korean Court ritual history. He is known to have sought after various political reforms and became Prince Regent at the age of 17 (he’s 20 in the show). He served as such for three years, until his death at age 20. That broke my heart. The thought of Prince Regent Lee Yeong dying at that young age made me so sad. I’m glad the show didn’t follow history in that regard.
Here’s a bit of trivia about the show…
1. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, which was based on the novel of the same name, is such a huge hit both in Korea and abroad that the media refers to its popularity as “Moonlight Syndrome”.
2. After the show aired the novel’s sales increased 56%.
3. It is KBS’s highest rated Monday/Tuesday night drama since 2010 and is one of only four weekday primetime Korean shows to cross the 20% ratings mark in 2016.
4. The eternal bracelets Prince Lee Yeong and Ra-On share are official Moonlight Drawn by Clouds merchandise but are quite difficult to get a hold of. They were sold out every place I looked.
5. In September (2016) KBS Media secured the rights to make Moonlight Drawn by Clouds into a musical production.
6. Due to its high ratings and amazing popularity KBS wanted to extend the drama’s 18 episodes to 20. However, the idea was shot down after the producer said the entire story had already been laid out and extending the show would conflict with some of the cast and crew’s scheduling.
7. There is a 19th episode which has lots of “extras” such as the making of, bloopers, meet the cast…
8. You can watch Prince Lee Yeong and his eunuchs dance Bombastic here.
9. The drama is also known as Love in the Moonlight, however, that completely changes what the real title refers to. At the end of the drama we learn the meaning behind the phrase “moonlight drawn by clouds” and it has nothing to do with love/romance.
The music is lovely, with 12 of the songs making it to the charts. My Person, the song sung by Park Bo-Gum, which had a peak chart position of number three, is the fifth highest selling song on the soundtrack. It’s not difficult to believe this man planned on having a career in music before he began acting. His voice is silky and sounds quite sexy on the whispery parts. Fondly, Goodbye, performed by Sung Si-Kyung, is my favorite and placed second on the charts. There are so many good songs and you can find several of them on YouTube, if you’re interested in listening to them.
This is an exquisite drama. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, everything from a lovely little pond, to a colorful lantern-filled night sky, to a sunset over a tiny village, to a swing in a flower garden, and the list goes on and on.
There isn’t a single thing to not like about this drama. The show is a sheer delight from light, funny start to serious, romantic end. Whether or not you enjoy historical shows, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds should definitely be on your 2016 Kdrama watch list. Absolutely!
Darling Park Bo-Gum
Great fight sequences
Not a single thing
* newest show on my top 20 favorite Kdramas list
(replaced City Hunter)