The flower boys of ‘Hwarang’
There is much more to “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” than its flower boys and their six-pack abs. There is chivalry, tradition, court intrigue, sword fights, archery and romance. This drama will take you as far as Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
In dramaland terms, it takes precedence over the Goryeo era of “Goblin” and the Joseon era featured in “Love in the Moonlight.”
The first king of Silla is Park Hyeokgeose. He is credited as the progenitor of all the Parks in Korea. Coincidentally, this makes the two male leads Park Seo Joon (Sun Woo/Moo Myung) and Park Hyung Sik (Ji Dwi/Sam Maek Jong) descendants of the king.
The center of the drama is the friendship and rivalry between Sun Woo and Ji Dwi. The two mirror each other in preferences, dreams and destiny but they differ in their ways. Their relationship is made complicated by the Bone Rank system adhered to by the period. The system works like the caste except that the Bone Rank is political in nature and dictates the office one can hold. Royals are called sacred bones while other members of the court are called true bones. One could move down from the tier, but moving up or staying at the top means having to kill someone.
Hwarang is a new class created to secure the future of the weak kingdom. They are the elite of Silla, chosen from the sons of true bones. The hwarang are trained to be scholars of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. They are trained in martial arts and swordfight. And as seen between episodes 8 and 10, hwarang must also be adept at the performing arts.
They must also be beautiful to look at. Hence the reason why there are so many good-looking boys in this drama. The ratio of men to women is lopsided in the series. There are 19 male characters with speaking lines which includes a cameo of Lee Kwang Soo as Mak Moon at the start.
Meanwhile, there are only four female characters. The lead is Ah Ro (Go Ara) who plays the damsel in distress perfectly. She is in tears or on the verge of it in almost all of the episodes. Her character starts out as cute and ends up being tiresome midway through the series.
Thankfully, there is Queen Ji Soo (Kim Ji-Soo) and Princess Sook Myung (Seo Ye-Ji) who make a strong representation for women. They are not made out to be likeable but they have tactical intelligence. Their firmness and ruthlessness are a breath of fresh air.
Secondary to the rivalry of Sun Woo and Ji Dwi is the rivalry of Soo Ho (Choi Minho) and Ban Ryu (Do Ji-Han). The two are the opposite of each other. Soo Ho is friendly, athletic, excels in sword fighting, and loves to chase girls. Ban Ryu is cold, scholarly and loyal to one woman. They hate each other’s guts.
Minho takes the lead in scenes where they have to move as a choreographed unit. He shines in football matches, dance numbers and group showers. In the drama’s preview available in Viu, it has been revealed that he even tweaked some of the dance steps so that his fellow actors could keep up with the choreography.
To complete the gang is the beautiful Jo Yoon-Woo (Yeo Wool) and the dreamer Han Sung (Kim Tae-Hyung).
Interestingly, the six main hwarang are divided evenly between actors and idols. There is Hyung Sik for ZE:A, Tae-Hyung for BTS, and of course, Minho for SHINee. For the soundtrack, Hyung Sik sings “I’ll be here” while Tae-Hyung collaborated with fellow BTS member Jin for the show’s opening theme titled “Even If I Die, It’s You.”
The catchiest soundtrack of the show is “A Move of God” performed by Yang Yoseub of Beast. The song makes you want to go on a mission somewhere armed only with idealism and youthfulness.
“Hwarang” may be testosterone overdrive, but it is a lot of fun. It has that feel of watching naughty college jocks get drunk, play pranks on each other and compete against one another. But at the end of the day, they are just kids trying to cope with the expectations resting on their shoulders.
Watch “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” free on the Viu app or at www.viu.com.
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