Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kdrama Review: Bridal Mask (2012)

Bridal Mask/Gaksital

I did it! I finally did it! What did I do? Watched Bridal Mask in under a week! 4 days to be specific (though I took a 2 day mandatory drama slump break in between).  Was it worth it? I’m not even sure. I have to be honest with you. I hated a lot of things about this drama.  I also disliked a great many more things. I did so much eye-rolling I once gave myself a headache. Snap decision rates this a 7. You’ll know why if you read beyond the spoilers mark below.

The Synopsis: During the Japanese occupation of Korea (ca. late 1930s) there is Bridal Mask – Freedom Fighter! Or, revenge fighter. Heaping revenge upon revenge, avenging wrongs that in turn incite others to enact revenge, so they can go out and again avenge someone else who died during someone else’s revenge. Yes teacher, I did learn how to properly use these two words. I’m just glad a drama finally gave me ample opportunity to use them.  Did I mention this is a revenge drama? Instead of a he said, she said; he killed, she killed. It’s also got one of the most torturesome bromances I have ever had the misfortune to sit through…

If this doesn't bode well, nothing will, bro. Nothing will. 

Back to the good part: Actually I can’t remember the good part anymore, but I know there was some! Something had to keep me glued to the TV for 28 hours, though it was probably curiosity more than anything else. Just how sucky can these characters’ fates actually get!?!

Probably the most epic of epic dramas (that I have seen recently), Bridal Mask the story of a Lee Kang To: a Korean ‘traitor’ employed in the Japanese Imperial Police. This is my first time with actor Joo Won, and though I can say I was pleased overall by his performance, I'm still not really his biggest fan.  More to my taste Park Ki Woong plays his best friend Kimura Shunji, a civilian school teacher in contrast to his more militarily minded father and older brother.

So how do they get from crying together on a bicycle to arch enemies on either side of a Korean-Japanese mob versus police war? Watch and find out, if you have the stomach to handle it.

Can't we just rationally discuss who gets the girl over tea time? Pretty please?

What I Liked:

For all the plot-wasting time, I found Bridal Mask to be a genuinely good story with some pretty compelling characters, especially in the initial set-up period of the drama: Kang To before he became Bridal Mask and Shunji before circumstances forced him to side with his father against his friend. 

Also, in keeping with my sudden realization that I’m prone to bit-player syndrome (as opposed even to second lead syndrome), I found myself watching more and more for a single character with about 5 seconds of screen time per episode. An unusual fascination perhaps, but I highly respect an actor who in a short amount of time can pull off a decent character with so little to work with.  My bit-player love this time around: Choi Dae Hoon as Lee Hae Seok, the son of a Korean count in cahoots with the Imperial government.  He’s everything a spoiled rich kid is supposed to be: playboy, carefree, friends with everyone, and deep down behind it a yearning that something is just not right with the world he occupies. If you expect to see a huge character arc from this guy, it’ll take a while (with about 1 major development per every 10 eps). I’m just giving credit where I think some is due. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the actor has been in anything else, ever. More’s the pity. I liked him way more than I did some of the main actors.

Ooh boy, do I love that smirk. Couldn't you have been the major player here??

What I Didn’t Like:

The romance – shockingly. I just didn’t feel it, and it’s mostly to do with the main female actress Jin Se Young as Oh Mok Dan. Her backstory is fine and dandy (for Kdrama standards), but as the pinnacle of our love triangle she’s almost too bland, and her acting while not horrid was not as compelling as others. I was mostly bored every time she came on screen, and only tolerated her because she was so vital to the story, and in the motivations behind our two main leads.

Also, I hate to admit it, but there were so many torture scenes in this abominable show that I almost wanted to yawn through them. Just how many times need we depict people being whipped or burned or put in a box with metal stakes. I think it was the writers’ go-to solution. “Well, what should we do now? The story’s slowed a bit.” “Hey, I know! Let’s have them bring this person back in for questioning and torture, AGAIN!” Repeat, two episodes later. And two episodes after that. Tedious, anyone?

Need more masked-man action, pppplease!!

Unfortunately I think Bridal Mask suffers much from a combination of too many small things to count. Almost as if it couldn’t decide what genre it really was (after the revenge drama part).  Maybe the length has to do with most of these faults. Read more for a short conclusion of why I gave this a higher rating than my initial reasoning demanded.


Because what says tragedy more than a black and white photo of a doomed OTP?

The truth behind my higher rating? The end! Omg the end! Specifically, Shunji’s end. I guess I always knew things wouldn’t be all roses and butterflies, and that one of them would die and it would probably be Shunji. I even guessed in the back of my mind that he might kill himself, but nothing quite prepared me for the actual moment. I didn’t even cry when Mok Dan died, though I was a bit misty eyed when Leader Jo went down.

Seeing Shunji coming to terms with his fate slowly and painfully, with every psychotic fiber of his being was absolute torture to watch. I know he became a royal pain in the ass, and that’s a large reason why I didn’t like the drama more as a whole, but his quiet reflection near the end coupled with the confrontation with Kang To already had me on edge. Sending out Kang To with the promise to end this all in battle, and then pulling out the gun – I actually jumped in my chair when I heard it fire, and the tears began to roll.
Shunjiii noooo.. You were supposed to go back and become a teacher when this
was all over; If you hadn't become  completely loony 10 episodes back.

A good emotional ending does a lot for me. I’m often willing to overlook a mediocre conclusion to something I otherwise loved, but when you finish a drama with tears in your eyes and can’t figure out what to do with yourself after that, then you know a drama’s got you. All those painful hours of boredom, gone in a flash.

Extra heartbreaking was the similar conclusion, however cowardly or noble (I’ll never decide which) was the money-stealing suicide confession of my boy Lee Hae Seok – and his father’s sudden if too late transformation.  For these reasons alone, Bridal Mask earned a 7 instead of the 5 or 6 I spent most the drama wavering over.  I’m glad I watched it, if just so I can list is as among my watched list. And I’m genuinely glad to have seen some of these actors work their finest – but I’ll never rewatch it, and it goes on no favorite list ever. As an emotional rollercoaster drama, I can understand its hype, but I don't share in it.

This is cruel, end drama credits, just too damned cruel...


  1. Uh-oh. I think this pretty much puts the nail in the Bridal Mask coffin for me. There are too many awesome dramas out there to waste time on the middling.

    1. Definitely not your type of drama Amanda; It was barely fitting for me, and just soooo long. Though, to my credit, I didn't fast-forward as much as I was often tempted to. Or maybe that means I was just in the mood to kill time I could've spent elsewhere? Who knows.. Drats. I wasted so much time with this show..

  2. If I still had some doubts whether I should finally watch this drama - which I started months ago only to put it on hold on episode 1 - your review did the trick and I can now drop it with a sort of childish relief. While the torture thing certainly didn't help the cause of the drama for me, what really made me decide to give up is a plot dealing with a good friendship going wrong. I can stand tragic romance, but not tragic friendship. One of my limits.

    Therefore Rosie, thank you for a great review which prevented me from wasting so many hours. :D

    1. Lol Rita. Glad I could help you there.

      I think it's interesting the things we can handle mentally, as evidenced by our drama tastes. At the back of everyone's mind, I think there is always the possibly of a romance going bad, or never lasting, especially a budding romance, and with a long romance, the fear that tragedy or even death will occur to deal with at some point, so tragic romance isn't that hard to fathom. But no one makes a new friend and ever thinks that something may go terribly awry with their friendship. Fall apart and move away, perhaps, but never something absolutely miserable, though I'm sure they happen pretty often in real life too.

  3. Yes, I suppose it happens in real life, but I've grown up thinking that true friendship is the only lasting thing in this world, that as opposed to romantic love, friendship can really conquer all. This is quite revealing of the way we are, isn't it?
    I would go as far as to say that tragic love is the most romantic of all, possibly because by dying before it will never reach its expiry date and all the daily romance-killing occurrences. :P

    This is a great blog, Rose. Thank you for letting us come in. :)