K-Drama Review: ‘Tale of the Nine-Tailed’: A Korean-Style Fantasy that Captures Both Romance and Fun

Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: tvN

In Korean tales, gumiho appear as monsters that seek humans’ liver to become humans. Gumiho, who mostly appeared in horror movies, started to break into a wide range of works, ranging from affectionate and sad dramas to cute rom-com dramas. Usually, a woman with nine tails and long black hair dressed in white hanbok comes to mind when you think of gumiho. However, Tale of the Nine-Tailed is completely different from the get-go. Contrary to our expectations, Lee Dong Wook and Kim Bum play the gumiho roles, not Jo Bo Ah.

Credit: tvN

Lee Dong Wook, who played the grim reaper in the 2016 hit drama Goblin, appears as gumiho with red hair and shimmering eyes in Tale of the Nine-Tailed. In the beginning, the fact that he shows a deft and carefree personality and has been waiting a long time for the “fated one” reminds us of the goblin played by Gong Yoo. However, Lee Dong Wook completed one unique gumiho by portraying Lee Yeon, who has melted into the human world with perfect visuals, and flawlessly depicting a man who is willing to lay down his life for his love with his “romantic eyes.”

Jo Bo Ah shows a solid performance playing the role of a strong-minded woman who has nothing to be afraid of and is capable of analyzing the clues calmly to find the answers in the role of a TV producer specializing in ghost stories. Not to mention the two actor’s splendid performances, the charming chemistry between Lee Yeon and Nam Ji Ah shown through their intertwined fate was enough to grab the viewers’ attention from the beginning.

Credit: tvN

A rich narrative among the characters is also intriguing. In particular, the relationship between Lee Yeon-Nam Ji Ah and Lee Yeon-Lee Rang stands out. First of all, Lee Yeon and Nam Ji Ah shows fateful love that even death cannot separate. Lee Yeon, who fell in love with a human girl named Lee Ah Eum, had to kill her with his own hands when Imoogi’s ruse put the target on her. Even giving up his position as a living god, Lee Yeon spends the next 600 years cleansing the monsters that are disrupting the human world, all the while searching for Ah Eum’s reincarnation. Finally, he meets Nam Ji Ah, Ah Eum’s reincarnation, and continues his fateful love once again.

The relationship between Lee Yeon and Lee Rang couldn’t be more affectionate. Lee Rang is Lee Yeon’s half brother and a half-human gumiho. Lee Yeon looked after his little brother with an indifferent yet loving care, and Lee Rang followed Lee Yeon, the first and the only one who showed him love, more than anyone else. However, Lee Yeon’s choice to save his baby brother only left Lee Rang believing that he was betrayed. Lee Yeon’s affection for Lee Rang is still the same, but Lee Rang’s misunderstandings have snowballed, and while he hates his older brother, he has a contradictory feeling in his heart of wanting to “love” his brother once again.

Credit: tvN

The most attractive part of the drama is the use of various Korean tales. The Snail Bride, who is said to prepare a delicious meal when no one is around, becomes the Korean restaurant owner and sells a variety of information along with delicious food. The river that serves as the border between this life and the afterlife (aka Samdochun) is transformed into the “Afterlife Immigration Office.” As such, familiar and friendly characters and materials found in traditional fairy tales are well captured in modern society, giving a fantasy-life yet strangely realistic vibe.

Among all these characters, the most impressive monster is Eoduksini (Spirit of Darkness). Eoduksini, known to prey on someone’s greatest fear, appears as Green Juice Auntie in Tale of the Nine-Tailed and puts Ji Ah and Lee Rang in their most feared moments, forcing Lee Yeon to choose one. As villain monsters also appear, the drama terrifyingly gives off a gloomy atmosphere in the right place, doubling its genre’s fun.

Tale of the Nine-Tailed has definitely captured the charm of fantasy by dealing with the two main characters’ heart-fluttering romance as well as monsters from various tales in every episode. For those who have been waiting for works like Goblin and Jeon Woo Chi: The Taoist Wizard that step outside of the traditional fusion history dramas and gives off a “Korean vibe” by combining the Joseon Dynasty and modern society along with mythical beings, Tale of the Nine-Tailed even provide a sense of delight. I hope to see more projects like this in the future.

Verdict: A thrill that Korean fantasy romance drama gives (7/10)

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