Finally, after like close to a year of promos, the Kdrama remake of the popular Chinese drama, Scarlet Heart (步步惊心), has screened.

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Main cast:

  • Lee Jun-ki (from Scholar of the Night) as 4th Prince, Wang-so. He was taken to Shinju at a young age supposedly to be fostered, but actually acting as a royal hostage to ensure the 2 kingdoms stay at peace. He returns to Goryeo for the imperial ritual ceremony and insists on staying after that.
  • IU (from Producers) as Ha-jin/ Hae-soo. The 21st century girl (Ha-jin) who finds herself thrown back into Goryeo by a freak accident (in the K version, it’s an eclipse). She enters the body (?) of her doppelganger, Hae-soo, a noble lady with a sassy attitude, who is brought along by her cousin to reside in 8th Prince’s residence.
  • Kang Ha-neul (from Misaeng) as 8th Prince, Wang-wook. The goody-two-shoes and said to hold the most potential to be Crown Prince, Wook takes Hae-soo under his wings on his ailing wife’s suggestion.

Synopsis:

Ha-jin finds herself caught in a time slip after a near-death accident in a park. She lands herself in Goryeo, and assumes the body of a similar looking noble lady by the name of Hae-soo.

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Thanks to the warmth accorded to her by Wook, Hae-soo decides to try to stay on in Goryeo (not that she knows how to get back). She has a crush on Wook, even though she is aware that he is supposed to be her cousin-in-law. Due to her proximity to the royal family, she gets to know 10 hunky princes — who all for various reasons fall in love with her. (maybe cos she has more spunk than the usual court ladies they see)

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Some background on the princes and the political turmoil of the era: the Crown Prince assigned by King Taejo isn’t exactly a hot favourite amongst the courtiers. As expected of court politics, an assassin is sent by the 3rd Prince to kill him. Among King Taejo’s many sons, 4th Prince So was sent at an early age to Shinju as a “peace offering” (the royal hostage). He returns to join his brothers in Goryeo after receiving Taejo’s invite to attend a royal ritual.

In addition, So also agrees to help the Crown Prince foil an attack on him during the ceremony. So chases the assassins and nearly catches them had Hae-soo not appear (at the wrong time) and spoil the big reveal.

Review:

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Other than the characters, and a broad similarity in the narrative (modern girl finds herself in the past), Moon is very different from Scarlet. For one, there is an addition of a new character — Royal Astronomer Choi Ji-mong (Kim Sung-kyun) — who like Ha-jin/ Hae-soo, appears in both the past and future (or current). Not too sure at the moment what role Ji-mong will play in the time travelling trope in Moon, but his character is a reminder not to compare Moon and Scarlet’s narratives.

Anyway, the historical reference is completely different. Scarlet is set in the Qing Dynasty, whilst Moon in Goryeo. They have different cultures, and even different time lines (Qing being more “recent” than Goryeo).

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In terms of characters, the general make-up of the 10 Princes’ personalities is similar to Scarlet, with the younger princes being the more playful and accepting of Hae-soo’s (or Ruoxi in Scarlet) unconventional behavior. Characterisation of 8th Prince bears the closest similarity in both shows — both are learned, goody-two-shoes, with the highest potential of being the next King. However, that’s where the similarities end.

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In Scarlet, 8th Prince’s relationship with his wife is frigid. She was forced into the royal marriage and none too happy to be his wife. So Ruoxi’s (her sister) crush on her brother-in-law didn’t seem so “wrong”, whereas in Moon, the couple appears to be happy. So Hae-soo’s infatuation appears to turn her into a potential home wrecker.

4th Prince So in Moon is also more of an outcast than 4th Prince Yinzhen in Scarlet. At least the latter never grew up outside of the royal family. It’s kinda sadly funny whenever the other princes stiffen up and give So the goggle eye (like he’s some kind of walking cloaked monster) whenever he breezes through a room. Though he may be as prickly and outwardly arrogant like Yinzhen, my sympathies are clearly with So from as early as ep1. And clearly, Hae-soo also notices So’s ostracism, though he also appears frightening to her. Unlike Scarlet, where I was puzzled why Ruoxi would want to associate herself with the aloof and haughty Yinzhen.

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Btw though, I didn’t like the ending of Scarlet that much. Tbh, I found Scarlet to be a drama which started off strong and ended off whimpering. Maybe it’s juz me, but the mooning around in the latter half of Scarlet due to court politics and Ruoxi’s sudden puzzling inability to accept them (when she has been staying there for decades) made me lost interest.

Hopefully, Moon doesn’t go down that path.

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