Ja Myung Go (자명고)
Synopsis: Legend has it that more than 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of Nangnang possessed a mystical Ja Myung Drum which will sound by itself when enemies invade. In reality, Ja Myung Go does not represent the drum but instead, is embodied by the King’s daughter, Princess Ja Myung. Princess Ja Myung and Princess Nak-Rang are born on the same day and time to the same father but different mothers. It is predicted that one princess will become the nation’s savior while the other will bring the entire nation down.
Country: South Korea
Genre: Historical, action, romance
Casting: Park Min Young, Jung Ryeo Won, Jung Kyung Ho, Lee Mi Sook, Lee Joo Hyeon, Kim Sung Ryung…
I finally followed Dushbadou’s advise: I watched Ja Myung Go. It was the second time in my life that I was that enthusiast for a sageuk (Empress Ki reminding for me THE reference drama). I swallowed its every episode as I was unable to stop. I will never regret those 39 hours spent in front of my computer.
Ja Myung Go ‘s greatness was his well thought scenario. My favourite episodes were the first 13 episodes. I’m usually not that fond of childhood episodes but here I was wholly satisfied. I loved that return in the past. The two stories of the Gorguryo and Nang Nang’s kingdoms were really well-written. The scriptwriter took the time to build solid bases and properly develop the plot. She laid the first signs of what became, later on, the great legend of Ja Myung Go. The fantastic (mythological?) dimension was actually the main strength of the drama. A mysterious and magical atmosphere wafted in those firsts episodes. We could already feel the tragedy coming, the plot thickening. I waited with great impatience the meeting of our 3 heroes which was supposed to seal their fate. Their relation became more and more intense while the whole drama took a more original turn along the episodes. Actually Ja Myung Go‘s beautiful outfits, ost and writing reminded me for a bit of Empress Ki -especially the character’s writing, the description of power struggle, conflict of interest, arranged marriages, etc…. That might explain why Ja Myung Go hooked me that much.
The drama wasn’t perfect for all that (even if we were closed from it). The pace of the plot greatly slowed down around the 22/27th episodes but that wasn’t its greatest weakness in my opinion: the romance was. I liked overall the love triangle (rectangle), but something in Ja Myung and Ho Dong’s relation disturbed me. Their first meeting was a bit clumsy and Ho Dong’s feeling for Ja Myung were too sudden. I had not even realised his feelings for her that the scriptwriter presented us with a fait accompli. That was a bit of a shame considering that half of the drama laid on their doomed love.
Now the characters: I loved all of them, especially the fourth main lead (Ja Myung, Ra Hee, Ho Dong and Wang Hol). The scriptwriter managed to keep the very essence of each character by making the past still weighting on the present.
Ja Myung/Pu Ku (Jung Ryeo Won) was one of the character that evolved the most during the drama. I liked how the little Pu Ku could be rebel and provocative. Despite a past somewhat tragic, she remained cheerful and always enjoyed life. But it was without counting the start of her visions. From that moment Pu Ku became Ja Myung: a young woman doomed to give up the one she loved- Ho Dong. Ja Myung saw herself entrusted the defence of her nation: NangNang. Despite her full determination to defend her country at all cost and the wall she had built around her heart, she tottered several time because of Ho Dong, her former lover. It was in those moments that the little Pu Ku reappeared. I actually loved those two different facets of her personality. Behind her smile Ja Myung hid her struggle and pain and Jung Ryeo Won perfectly played the subtlety of her character.
Nak Rang/Ra Hee (Park Min Young) was a two-edged character like Ja Myung. There was on one side Ra Hee, the young woman in love, and on the other one Nak Rang, NangNang’s princess. The scriptwriter once again subtly played with the two facets of her character. Ra Hee, unlike Ja Myung, only followed her feelings. She was constantly raring to go. Impulsive, jealous and sometimes capricious, Rae Hee had a strong personality. She had been loved, protected and supported all her life. But as surprising as it might seem, that love never managed to fill her feeling of loneliness. As she grew she found herself fighting against Ja Myung, the one who overshadowed her in Ho Dong and Mo Ha So’s hearts. That was the facet I liked the most in her, as she suffered as much as Ja Myung despite the appearances. Nothing wrong in Park Min Young’s performance. She actually pleasantly surprised me here.
Ho Dong (Jung Kyung Ho) was a character as complex as the two previous ones. His world revolved around three women: Ja Myung, Ra Hee and Song Mae Seol Soo. I actually preferred his relation with Song Mae Seol Soo than the one he had with the two others- even though they were his love interest. Ho Dong evolved the most in the 13 first episodes. The little smily prince well and truly died during that period, letting place to a darker version of himself for the rest of the drama. Ho Dong was a character hard to read. Arrogant, stubborn, suspicious of everything and great strategist, Ho Dong kept his card closed to his chest to the point that I had a hard time decoding his true feelings (did he really love Ra Hee? or did he only use her to get what he wanted?). Jung Kyung Ho brilliantly played with that ambivalence making his character neither wholly white nor black.
I would like to mention another actors who played Ho Dong (that character was actually played by three different actors): Yeo Jin Gu. I completely fell for him in that drama. He played with great natural his role and to be honest, I was a bit disappointed to see him being that quickly replaced by Jung Kyung Ho.
Wang Hol (Lee Joo Hyun) surprised me for the simple and good reason that I wasn’t expecting to see him becoming that important to the plot. Wang Hol had not really made a striking impression during his childhood. Clumsy with a sword, he only dreamt of living far away from the battlefield. Alala if only he had known what he would become! Twist of fate the little Wang Hol became great general when adult. I grew quite fond of him as he quickly changed along the episodes. The innocent kid still lived in that general’s body nonetheless. Unable to control his feelings, he could be as clumsy and abrupt toward Ja Myung as a kid would be when it came to love.
Wang Ja Sil -Ra Hee’s mother- (Lee Mi Sook) quickly caught my attention in the firsts episodes. Once again we dealt with a strong woman. She always went all out to achieve her goals: murders, poisoning, plot etc….nothing could stop her. Her decisions seemed sometimes a bit disproportionated but we always ended up understanding her somehow. I thought at first that I would have to deal with a selfish, self-centred character but on the contrary! Wang Ja Sil only acted for her family and more specifically, her daughter. I actually loved her relation with Ra Hee. A very interesting character who unfortunately, disappeared more and more in the last episodes.
Mo Ha So -Ja Myung’s mother- (Kim Sung Ryung) was the perfect opposite of Wang Ja Sil. I loved her in the firsts episodes but unfortunately her story greatly lost her speed thereafter. The scriptwriter insisted a bit too much on how pure and virtuous she was, making her less interesting than the other. Her relation with Ra Hee was finally what I liked the most about Mo Ha So but then again, I expected a bit more from her character. A shame! especially since I love Kim Sung Ryung.
Song Mae Seol Soo- Ho Dong’s “stepmother”- (Seong Hyeon Ah), by certain aspect of her personality, made me think of Tanashiri from Empress Ki. Abandoned by her husband she did anything she could to please him, so as to give birth to an heir. She deeply hated Ho Dong- who wasn’t her son- and that was wholly justified: the king refused to touch her because he didn’t want another heir than Ho Dong. He promised to sleep with her only when she would be a postmenopausal woman. Great! And he said that as if he was doing her a great favour. I was sad for her in the end >>> SPOILER- she fought during the whole drama for her son -for him to become the heir of the throne- and in the end it was a fucking cousin who was chosen. Cruel twist of fate -SPOILER<<<
The other characters were also interesting but my critics is already very long, let’s end here.
A few words on the ending: many people seemed to have been disappointed by the last episode, but personally that wasn’t my case. For me, the drama could only end like that 🙂
To conclude Ja Myung Go was a great adventure! I fell in love of that drama as much as those two fell in love for each other:
Note de Whoovy: 9/10
Note de Dushbadou: 9/10
Note finale: 9/10