Gaksital was exciting from the get-go. With the promise of action and political conflict, this manhwa-based drama started off on a high note. I’m glad to see that the drama continues to live up to it.
The drama is about the main character, Lee Kang To (Joo Won), and his quest to fight the Japanese occupation in 1930’s Korea. After seeing his father die and his brother, Kang San (Shin Hyun Joon), become (or actually pretend to be) an imbecile, Kang To joins the Japanese Imperialist Police Force. He doesn’t see the point in trying to fight for independence when it means that he has to go hungry and that he must struggle to survive.
I didn’t have much sympathy for Kang To in the beginning. To be honest, there were a lot of characters and details to understand to fully take up any side. However, I didn’t see how having money meant he would be safe.
I wondered why his brother was pretending because I felt that Kang San was that fatherly conscience that Kang To needed to look up to. Ultimately, I was waiting for Kang To to take up the mask.
Six episodes in and Kang To still wasn’t Gaksital nor had he figured out who this vigilante was that he was chasing. However, it was such an incredible build up that pays off because you understand heart and soul and logically why Kang To has no choice but to take up the cause. There is no other path for Kang To to take. He is alone but he’s also in a prime position to be Gaksital. As part of the Japanese Police Force and his previous zealousness to capture Gaksital, he’d be privy to intel while remaining off the suspect list.
On the other hand, there’s Shunji (Park Ki Woong). Born to Japanese parents but who grows to love the Joseon (aka Korean) people.
He’s best friends with Kang To, despite how contemptuous Kenji (Park Joo Hyung) is of Kang To.
However with Kenji’s death, Kang To taking up the Gaksital identity and the two being in love with Mok Dan (Jin Se Yeon), this friendship has no choice but to end tragically.
I have to admit that the drama does a great job of not drawing clear lines. It’s not like if you’re Japanese and I’m Korean, we can’t be friends. It’s not simple as Shunji’s alliance doesn’t lie here nor there. He just wants to live peacefully but sometimes you’re forced to take up a fight you don’t initially believe in because you’ve been backed into a corner. It’s so hard because I really like Shunji.
Though I don’t think the drama is without its problems. I get that the drama is based off a manhwa and because of it the acting can become a little overexaggerated. I’m okay with seeing Kang To become Red Rum angry and Kenji sneering. I actually like it as it enhances the noir aspect of the drama.
However, Kang To’s constant use of the phrase “Bingo” and Count Lee Shi Yong’s (Ahn Suk Hwan) whining and general fumbly weirdness takes me out of the momentum of the drama. I’d seriously like the drama to tone those elements down.
Additionally, there’s the continuity person. What the hell is this person doing? This is the person who makes sure that the scene visually flows from one cut to another so it’s not jarring. That means checking costumes, actors and sets. I think one of the most glaring things is the stunt Gaksital guy. The stunt guys’ facials structures are so different from Shin Hyun Joon. You’d think you’d avoid trying to shoot close-ups of his face.
So far, I think it’s Joo Won that does most of the stunts at the end of 6 but we’ll have to see for future episodes. (Joo Won just finished a food challenge on 1 Night 2 Days this week. We’ll we be seeing a pudgier Joo Won in Gaksital? Lol.)
Then, there’s the weird prop blood. You guys know that the color of blood changes after awhile, right? I’m gonna chalk this one up to the fact that you ran out of money??? What with the luscious sets, the big cast, action scenes and CG.