Hello and welcome to another TV series deep dive in The Couch Potato series! This time it’s on the 2020 drama from South Korea – The Tale of the Nine-Tailed Fox.
This is a spoiler free review and only the basic geist of the plot would be revealed. TV series deep dives on the blog consist not just of this, but synopsis and expectations, mid run reviews, penultimate episode predictions, segmented episode recaps and much more! You can read all that on the Tale of the Nine-tailed fox by clicking the link here! Now onto the recap!
You can listen to the original soundtrack of this series as you read by clicking this Spotify link. My favorite tracks are Blue Moon by Kim Jong Wan, Parting at the river of the three crossings by Hong Dae Sung , Moonchild ballad by Lyn and The Nine Tailed Fox by Hong Dae Sung.
Title : Tale of The Nine Tailed Fox (English), 구미호뎐 (Korean), Gumihodyeon (Romanized title)
Country of origin : South Korea
Language : Korean
Directed by : Kang Shin Hyo and Jo Nam Hyung
Written by : Han Woo Ri
Starring : Lee Dong Wook, Jo No Ah, Kim Bum
Music : Hong Dae Sung (main composer)
Produced by : Studio Dragon
Number of seasons : 1
Number of episodes : 16
Status : Completed
Genre : Fantasy, Action, Romance
The story surrounds the titular character – the nine-tailed fox, also known as the gumiho which is a legendary character based on Korean myths. It would be helpful to have a better understanding of what a gumiho is to understand its role on the series so you can read more on that here.
Our gumiho is Lee Yeon. Centuries ago he had decided to take the form of a human man and had taken on the role of a mountain god to protect the fragile ecosystem around that area. It’s at that time he meets Ah Eum a young princess with whom he grows closer. Lee Yeon eventually falls in love with Ah Eum, a once-in-a-lifetime event for a gumiho. But some sinister forces led to Ah Eum’s death. Devastated he stops the boat crossing to the heavens with her soul and gives her his fix bead so that he can recognise her when she is finally reborn.
As Yeon waits 600 years for her to reborn, she finally is born as Ji Ah, who is a PD at a broadcasting station that does a program on the supernatural. She has had her own fix of the supernatural even before meeting Yeon when she met with a freak accident with her parents at a young age, and her parents vanished into thin air.
Ji Ah and Yeon join forces and eventually fall in love as they try to find her missing parents. At the same time, the sinister evil that destroyed everything centuries ago, looms in the background ready to attack again.
Although not a part of the central plot, this character is equally important too and that’s Lee Rang , Yeon’s younger half brother (whose half gumiho, half human). The two brothers had a strong bond until the something happened in the past made Yeon kill Rang. Rang didn’t actually die since Yeon missed his vital organs and decides to take revenge on Yeon and destroy his life, like his was.
The story also has many other characters who I will mention as I go through the review!
Let’s start with the story, then.
As you might have guessed the setup of the story and the focus is naturally on the relationship of Yeon and Ah Eum/Ji Ah that extended even beyond her death. This was accompanied by how the other characters including the villian (I’m not going to discuss more on that because it kind of spoils the fun in it) affects their story, both in the present as well as 600 years ago when Ah Eum dies.
We have seen fantasy, irrevocable love and reincarnations before, and taking that into account, this was a nearly done plot, but I wouldn’t call it amazing or that it set itself apart from the other stories in this genre. The foundation as well as the execution of the plot on screen was very straightforward. It provided us the right information at the right time and at any point of time I wasn’t confused or trying my best to guess what’s next. Is that a bad thing? Well, not really. It depends on whether you enjoy twisted and Mysterious plots or straightforward stories more.
And because the story was in such a format, that directly affected the actor performances as well. In most cases the acting prowess heavily depends on how good the plot is as well and considering how straightforward it is, it didn’t give huge opportunities for the actors to shine through.
Nevertheless Lee Dong Wook performed the role of Yeon to my high satisfaction. He was laid back, but serious but also very childish at the same time. I liked how they went for a tawny red shade for his hair which really made him fox-like. Small nuances of his character like how he keeps his egg to eat at the end when he eats noodles or his irrevocable love for mint chocolate ice cream were nice little character traits that I enjoyed a lot on screen.
Jo Bo Ah’s performance wasn’t as satisfactory to me as Lee Dong Wook’s was. I also didn’t feel as much chemistry as I would have liked to see between them considering how dramatic their relationship is portrayed. At times I felt that the character of Ji Ah which we see the most of if very bold but that was maybe taken a little overboard at some instances – cue the fall from the balcony scene in Episodes 1-2.
Speaking of chemistry, which we have to talk about since the story is all about that, was good but not amazing. It doesn’t have to do anything particular, but I somehow felt the romantic sequences between the two were placed at some odd timings in the story that kind of threw us off balance, especially towards the end of the series.
However the real person that stole the whole show is undeniably Lee Rang, played by Kim Bum. We all saw and loved Kim Bum in the hit series “Boys over Flowers” and other shows but I for one was very excited to see him back on the small screen.
Not only did he do justice to the character but he easily stood out as a favorite amongst the public. It has to be said that the bromance between him and Lee Dong Wook as half brothers were some of the best I’ve seen. I think Lee Dong Wook also has a special talent to show some of the best on-screen chemistries ever like he did in the Goblin. I was rooting for the two brothers all the way and there’s something very challenging about effectively portraying strong friendships, familial bonds over say a romantic venture on screen considering how relatable it is for the audience. On that note I can say that this duo aced it and at one point when I was just watching the drama without a huge amount of interest, these two elevated my interest in the show greatly especially in Episodes 8 and 9 which are easily the best episodes in the show as far as I am concerned.
I’m very excited on what Kim Bum can bring to us on screen with his future projects as well.
Another important factor is that the fantasy part of this series wasn’t restricted to just gumihos but a large array of mythical characters, most of which you may be introduced to for the first time if you are an international viewer. I did think that the story would have us revolve around new mythical beings as the episodes roll by and that was the case in the first few episodes but after that the story curves and concentrates on the main villian – who also performed to satisfaction that you can’t help hating him although you don’t go to the lengths of really despising him as I felt with some other villians who gave an amazing performance.
The OST of the drama was also really good, especially the instrumentals. I have already mentioned at the beginning which my favorite tracks are, so please do check it out if you’re interested!
Most of the drama is shot in the city which didn’t catch my attention as much but the scenes up in the mountains and in the past were very aesthetic and pleasing to the eyes as we.
Overall the tale of the nine-tailed fox was a good watch. It’s not that it’s bad, but would I rate it one of the best fantasy dramas? No. But that doesn’t mean it won’t make a great watch. Even if the main couple did fall short at some places, the brothers and the supporting cast made up for it very well. I know I’ve raved about Kim Bum a lot in this, but he really stole the show and watching the show to check out his character arc is also a viable option!
Did you watch this series? What did you feel? Let me know in the comments! You can check out all the other posts on this series by clicking the link at the top! You can check out the Trailer #1 and Trailer #2 here!