Shows about superheroes are not exactly common in Korean drama. When "Blade Man" was announced, it sounded like a very silly premise and one which would likely have very little to offer aside a gimmick and romance. Surprisingly, the series did some things to be envied by others dramas and its freshness was wonderful. That is, until the usual drama problems struck. "Blade Man" is truly odd, but not for the reasons originally assumed.
Joo Hong-bin (Lee Dong-wook) looks like a typical spoiled rich man. Having a bad relationship with his father due to him driving away Hong-bin's first love, he takes his frustrations out on others. What makes him different is that he has supernatural abilities, some of which manifest when he is upset. Son Se-dong (Shin Se-kyung) is a game designer looking for a new job for herself and her team. She takes care of those around her and works hard to earn a living. When she is hired at Hong-bin's company, they begin to slowly bond and with her help, Hong-bin starts addressing the problems in his life.
Korean dramas usually rely a lot on dialogue. Emotions are narrated, expressed by the characters or others. In this sense, the writing is very much about holding the viewers' hands. The way scenes play out is also very straight forward, having very little effort put into using all the tools available. "Blade Man" does something most dramas fail to do. It uses its whole presentation to convey what it wants to. There can be whole scenes with no dialogue, because the directing, the music and the actors are allowed to show their function, rather than narrate it. When dialogue is there, it is usually short and meaningful. Purely as a method, this is the right way to use one's tools.
The series also has a very interesting focus. While messy and unbalanced in its plot progression, the overall focus is clear and interesting. The series originally and for the most part shows topics we have seen before. Spoiled chaebol turning good, bubbly girl being nice, a disapproving father, a past trauma. However, where most dramas use those just to frame their usual focus, the romance, "Blade Man" actually explores them more. It shows the relationships, focuses on why its most important characters are as they are, why they change and how, making it a much richer and more mature approach than your usual show.
However, the series has some major issues and takes some wrong turns that eventually ruin its appeal. For one, Hong-bin's abilities are pointlessly too many and never matter. They have little use in the otherwise more down to Earth plot and are never given one or even explained. This happens with many other elements too. The writing is inspired and aims higher in terms of its messages and depth of its topics. Its presentation is beautiful, but it lacks consistency and relies too much on actors who cannot deliver on the nuance that is required. Se-dong is important to everyone around, but not developed enough for that part.
Despite this, the series still has its charm and a lot of heart up to a point. Then things go downhill. The drama decides to introduce and focus on a character only mentioned throughout 3/4 of the work and their own story. Everything it was doing is abandoned, its focus lost and with that focus, any coherence, originality and quality. The writing eventually resorts to cheap and way too many new random twists, noble idiocy, overdone melodrama and pretty much every other bad decision which plagues many a drama.
"Blade Man" is a classic example of what this industry tends to do with shows which try to leave its formula and try something new. The series was cut, the writer eventually gave up and it was all thrown in the bin. Without the proper confidence and support, shows with potential cannot realize it. Creators and channels need to learn how to stick to their decisions and finish what they start. Until then, dramas like "Blade Man" will never manage to hold on to all the good things they create.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Blade Man""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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