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[K-Drama Review] ‘Lovers of the Red Sky’: Finding the Balance Between Historical Drama and Fantasy

Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Cho EK

Lovers of the Red Sky
Credit: SBS

K-drama fans will be enjoying a lot of period series in the second half of the year. From August to December, various historical drama series in different genres like romance and comedy will air each month. The first runner-up series is Lovers of the Red Sky, a historical fantasy romance drama that came out after a long preparation.

In the first half of the year, there was a heated discussion about ‘creativity in drama series.’ Lovers of the Red Sky did not get a free pass from this debate. The original story is set in the Joseon Dynasty when King Sejong ruled the peninsula, and it centers around Prince Suyang and Prince Anpyeong. Joseon Exorcist, which aired on the same channel, was canceled after two episodes due to controversy over historical distortion in the piece. Therefore, it is natural that the viewers were a little alerted by the upcoming sequel. However, luckily, the new drama avoided controversy by settling the story in a fictional country inspired by Joseon.

Lovers of the Red Sky is set in a fictional country, Dan Guk. It revolves around a female painter with magical powers, Hong Chun Gi, and a red-eyed man, Ha Ram, who can read the constellations. They were bound by fate from the moment they were born by the power of goddess Sam Shin. Nine years later, boy Ha Ram stumbles upon Chun Gi, a blind girl who was taking care of her father. From then on, he cherishes the memory and vividly remembers the moment they spent together. However, during a rain ritual for well-being and the casting out of evil spirits, Ha Ram loses his sight, and Chun Gi restores her sight. Nineteen years later, Chun Gi becomes an excellent painter, and Ha Ram becomes an astrologer who reads stars. Soon, they meet again and fall in love without knowing who each other is.

Lovers of the Red Sky is a fantasy romance drama that makes use of its unique otherwordly setting. When the balance of power in the world has broken, the forces of life and death begin to clash. Amid the chaos, humans accept the power of death to gain more control, and a king’s portrait drawn by an artist with divine power is used for sealing the evil spirit they have summoned. However, Ha Ram loses his sight when the great devil who escaped from the portrait goes into his body and Ha Ram’s destined partner, Chun Gi, becomes the divine painter who is fated to seal the great evil again. Their fate gets into a whirlwind as they confront the king’s second son, Prince Joo Hyang, who wants to seize the throne even with the help of the devil.

Lovers of the Red Sky
Credit: SBS

The drama first tries to explain its setting for the viewers to fully understand the story. In other words, the whole backstory is shoved in the first episode: The ceremony to seal the great devil, Chun Gi and Ha Ram’s destined romance from the very beginning, their fluttering reunion after nine years, Ha Ram’s eyes turning red with the unleashed devil finding his new body, and Chun Ki restoring her sight. In addition, the princes appear to form another part of the narrative. No matter how cleverly the story is laid out, it feels too complicated, and it is very easy for the views to lose track of the plot. Explaining complex and unfamiliar settings as quickly as possible is a choice that a drama must make, but this time, it felt a little too rushed.

If the drama had no choice but to deal with a large volume of unfamiliar content in the beginning, it must slow down in other areas like in directing and editing. The fact that the viewers feel a little fed up in the first episode of Lovers of the Red Sky shows that it wasn’t successful in playing that out. There are many parts that are beautiful, bubbly, serious, or thrilling when seen as shorter clips, but these elements do not flow smoothly as a whole. Plus, immediately after the first episode was premiered, there were many criticisms on the great devil’s appearance and its VFX. Although the character design is a little off, it is acceptable because there are only a handful of Korean historical fantasy dramas that heavily rely upon VFX, and because they are using less of them in later episodes.

The brilliant performances of the actors breathe life into the drama series. Kim Yoo Jung, the go-to actress who made a historical drama comeback after a long time, excellently portrays the strong and beautiful Chun Gi. Ahn Hyo Seop’s performance as Ha Ram is also impressive. Gong Myung’s Prince Yangmyeong plays a vital role in the love triangle with Chun Gi and Ha Ram and provides comic relief. However, the actor that stole the editor’s heart was Kwak Si Yang, Prince Joo Hyang, who plans to steal the throne. Every time he appears, he catches the viewers’ eyes with his charisma.

As I am writing this, Lovers of the Red Sky just finished airing its 4th episode. It was both exciting and daunting in the first few episodes, but fortunately, it received a good response and strengthened the saying that historical dramas are always successful. Although it is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the broad universe of these series, it definitely has charms that can offset it. I want to see how far Lovers of the Red Sky can expand the boundaries of the ‘creativity in historical dramas.’

 

Verdict: Now that the valley of fantasy is over, wouldn’t it start the pretty romance? (6/10)

 

Editor Seo Hae Lan: I’m not picky and like all genres. I am in constant search of a balance between criticism and a fan’s heart.

Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.

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