Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (also known as Love in the Moonlight) is an adaptation of South Korean web novel of the same name. The live action drama stars young rising talents such as Park Bo Gum, Kim Yoo Jung, Jin Young, Kwak Dong Yeon, Chae Soo Bin and is supported by many other veteran actors. The drama is a fusion sageuk with a contemporary theme, and is widely advertised as teen romance with light politics. The story inspired by Crown Prince Hyomyeong from the Joseon era, about the tale of his personal life and his struggle as a Regent ruler.
If you are new to historical drama, and enjoys cute romance or bromance and little politics—this will be it. However, I do warn of the danger of developing high standards in visuals after completing this drama.
The story begins as Hong Sam Nom / Hong Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung) dressed as boy due to unknown reason. She is a street performer, and work on the side as a love consultant for the Joseon people. Ra On helps one of her clients write love letters, but upon knowing the lady’s identity, the yangban chickens out. She is made to meet the lady, but instead she gets entangled up with Crown Prince Lee Yeong (Park Bo Gum) and Kim Yoon Sung (Jin Young).
To pay off a debt, Ra On is forcibly sold to the palace as a eunuch. She dodges the castration knife, and enter the palace, but attempts to escape by failing the tests. Life becomes hilariously tough when the prince cock-blocks her grand plan left, right and centre. Hiding his royal status, Lee Yeong and his childhood friend / bodyguard Kim Byung Yeon (Kwak Dong Yeon) and Ra On eventually become friends.
In a series of events, Lee Yeong is ordered by the king to rule in his stead. In the journey of becoming a successful regent ruler, he bravely confronts the challenges and resolves them with his wisdom. He fell for Ra On, but attempts to hide his feelings not knowing her real identity. However, once her identity is revealed, he pursuits her rigorously and she soon conceded because she is deeply in love with Lee Yeong too. All could have been well if Lee Yeong isn’t forced to marry Jo Ha Yeon (Chae Soo Bin) and Ra On running the risk of lying about her identity as well as being the daughter of the infamous traitor, Hong Gyung Rae.
↓↓↓ Spoilers Beware ↓↓↓
A lot of times, we hear people say the book is better than the live action; very rarely we hear the opposite, or that both are equally good. I like a book for its capacity to include in-depth insights into our characters’ thoughts, personalities and backstory. A drama can can’t achieve that because of limited episode lengths. However, in certain aspects, I appreciated this drama over the book because of its capability of turning text into beautiful visuals and sounds.
With this drama, we can’t not acknowledge the topnotch quality we see—the sets, its fashion ¹ ² ³; original sountrack; direction; cinematography; choreography and screenplay; and last but not least, the stellar casts. I could go on praising about the breathtaking cinematography and its beautiful backdrops for instance, but I prefer to let the captured screenshots do all the talking.
Memorable Promotional Teaser + Opening Theme
Apart from the drama itself, two more things that merit a special mention. A lot of efforts were invested in promoting the drama—the unforgettable modern dance by Park Bo Gum in hanbok which confuses the crap out of us initially—thinking what type of drama we are getting ourselves into. This video remains entertaining, and a mood-lifting clip that put a smile on my face to this day. I wish to see him perform this again; maybe the 5 of them can do a special performance in KBS Drama Awards this year.
Furthermore, I love the artistic and contemporary take for the opening theme. It’s cute and beautiful to see the fusion of modern and ancient artifacts together, and they don’t even feel out of place.
One other thing we should also acknowledge is the risk and challenges the script writers undertook to be different from the novel i.e. by changing events and its characters’ personalities. The result, in my opinion, is a 70-30 hit and miss.
The drama keeps the backbone of the novel’s plot, but they executed the series of events and storylines differently, and this resulted in the drama taking a life of its own. It is refreshing to drama viewers and novel readers due to it unpredictability. I believe it keeps us on their toes; our curiosity at its peak in every single episode. By this, the script writers are undeniably doing a splendid job in the beginning for pulling this off. One other note-worthy thing are Lee Yeong’s lines that now became a hot trend, so kudos to the writers. I also appreciated the show’s choice of giving Lee Yeong a different ending to the novel and history. It is a lot more gratifying when our hero gets to have the best of both worlds (love & bread), and we watch them continue to grow and achieve their dreams.
This is largely due to the deterioration of storytelling in latter episodes. The show heavily concentrated on romance that it forgot to grant a bit of time in developing important side plots and secondary characters. Had the narration remain consistent, or the scattered side plots are weaved together a little earlier, the actions of the secondary characters would have connected more fluidly later on. In short, the show miss the timing and lose sight of keeping a balance between the romance and its main plot.
For a drama that started off so perfectly in all areas, it is a pity that it did not get to maintain its high standards to the end. It is uncertain if live shooting should take all the blame since the writers already have a blue print of how and when the characters and story should be executed before production. However, I would largely point the finger at the person who executed the script, rather than the writers, because it is a fact that a good written script does not always reflect what we see on-screen due to editing, time and live shoot. Often script writers have no control over the real situation on the set and editing room, and that they don’t see their work until it is live on TV. Had this show been pre-produced, the overall quality we see now would have been 99% perfect.
There are no complaints with the castings. Each actor digested the role well and gave their best interpretations by instilling life into the characters. The only hiccup, as mentioned, is the execution of the story-telling. The plot development and characterisation were sacrificed when they make way for the cute romance, which resulted in small inconsistency with our main characters’ behaviour and original character set-up. Luckily this doesn’t affect individual actors’ performances.
Park Bo Gum is Lee Yeong, Lee Yeong is Park Bo Gum. I don’t see anyone playing this role other than him. Although Lee Yeong isn’t my favourite out of all characters Bo Gum has played, but this character is definitely one of the most challenging. Bo Gum not only gave the character depth and a multi-faceted personality, he transformed himself into this charismatic and attractive prince who is witty, cheeky, sneaky, optimistic, perceptive, ambitious and many more. Bo Gum is at his best when expressing different emotions, and many of his microexpressions please me to no end. I’m also delighted that he nailed the sageuk tone in his first ever historical drama. I can tell he has done a lot of homework and it paid off. There is very little we can nitpick on Bo Gum’s Lee Yeong apart from he needed more practice in making his moves in fight scenes look less choreographed and more natural. Funnily, he mentions it himself in the finale special episode.
Jin Young plays Kim Yoon Sung from the Andong Kim clan and gave a stellar performance. He has now made a lasting impression in me—in both acting and music composition. It is worth noting that he plays Yoon Sung with charisma that doesn’t pale from Lee Yeong. I also often find myself wanting more scenes between Yeong and Yoon Sung, or the 3 boys—their bromance was good since episode 1. I still remember feeling disapprove of Yoon Sung’s involvement in the drama simply because he will be hindering the main OTP. Little did I ever imagine I would grow so fond of this character. It pains me so much that Yoon Sung’s fate met its end the way it did. I understand that the novel writer prefers Yoon Sung to end the way she has written it, but I am pretty sure she would disapprove of the execution in the drama—simply because it was pointless and unnecessary. Let’s just say, if the scenario was similar to the book, I’d not have been this upset.
Kim Yoo Jung had been wonderful in the beginning; I love her interpretation as Hong Ra On when she was quick-witted, smart, sincere, cheeky and bubbly. If we have to pick any imperfection with the adaptation of Ra On, then it is stripping the wisdom novel Ra On possesses, and transforming her into a helpless damsel in distress in latter episodes where she constantly gets stuck in sticky situations she is too powerless to save herself from. Narratively, it becomes very draining to see Ra On in distress. Although Yoo Jung is considered an experience sunbae in historical drama and the entertainment industry, there is still room for improvement when it comes to acting and mastering the art of microexpressions. Now that she has reached a mature age, let’s hope she actively and continuously seek improvements and breakthrough when more suitable scripts are readily available to her.
Kim Byung Yeon was previously played by another actor named Lee Seo Won (Uncontrollably Fond), but with unknown reason, he dropped out and Kwak Dong Yeon took over. I’m glad everything work out in the end—Bo Gum and Dong Yeon’s bromance-chemistry sizzles and it seems like they are inseparable in real life now, LOL, so cute. Byung Yeon’s character is also a victim of poor characterisation which I hold the executive producers responsible. Based on his agency’s release photos, it is clear that quite a lot of Byung Yeon’s scenes did not make it to the cut. There is so much potential to his character that the show could have explored and/or elaborated, but we see neither his conflicts nor insights to his feelings or thoughts. The lack of his character development contributed to part of the drama’s imperfection. Acting wise, the 19 years old Dong Yeon is still inexperience, but as far as I could see from his perfornace in here, I think he pass with flying colour.
Chae Soo Bin plays the role of Jo Ha Yeon to the best of her ability as per the written script. I like her straight forwardness most of the time, and thinks she is harmless and means well. However, I do agree with viewers that she does exhibit conflicting behaviour in her character, and I believe this is because she is an adaptation of not one, but two characters from the novel. The side that comes off blunt and rude, and admiring Lee Yeong is actually the Qing Princess character. However, like the original, Ha Yeon is a woman who decides her own fate, so the ending at least rings true for her character. There is a sense of dissatisfaction when we zero in on Ha Yeon’s character development in the story. Like Byung Yeon, Ha Yeon doesn’t play a huge part in the drama, and there are times I wish the show would make a better use of her than what we see.
As usual, this isn’t a drama without flaws. However, these flaws are also each to our own. For me, it’s mainly because I developed high expectation when they show me the potential of what they could achieve. Therefore, disappointment creeps in when certain episodes didn’t deliver; especially after dedicating my heart, soul and time blogging it. I was also right about it planning to finish with a bang that the plot became draggy. This never really goes well since it runs the risk that things suddenly seem too easy for the hero. Why the shows never learn, I really don’t know. But, you know, I could deal with all these flaws except one—which is the bitter ending for uri Yoon Sung. It was painful to watch it twice (live streaming and with subtitles) *Cries* *Sigh* *BuIwillgetoveritandlifegoeson* *Heisfinebecausehewasatthesigningevent*
On a whole, I would still regard Moonlight Drawn by Clouds highly. It deserves all the success due to a brillant casts and crews, and most importantly for its innovative and artistic touch to a sageuk drama which I have never seen before. With all the hard work poured into this drama, it is no wonder they garner nationwide and international recognitions and TV high ratings. In that, I am also happy KBS acknowledges the show (how can they not since they are milking the show every which way they can) and granted the team a vacation trip to Cebu, Philippines for 5 days. It has been a great pleasure riding along the journey with Seja in search of a happy world in which a child can live as a child and a woman can live as a woman. KAMSAHADA to Moonlight Drawn by Clouds for this wonderful experience into the world of Joseon culture, fashion and history.