[Review] Gu Family Book – 구가의 서


The drama centers around a half-human, half-beast, Choi Kang Chi (Lee Seung Gi) and his struggle to belong.  Abandoned by his birth parents, he was raised within the Park household.  When Jo Kwan Woong (Lee Sung Jae) returns to the village, Kang Chi’s world is turned upside down.  The only person who is able to see past Kang Chi’s beastly demeanor is Dam Yeo Wool (Bae Suzy).

Truthfully, my heart just wasn’t in this drama from the beginning.  In a way, the setup reminded me of The Moon Embraces the Sun too much.  You had the impressive cast, the past dilemma extending to the present, color saturated cinematography, the historical reference, Baek Ji Young singing the main ballad on the OST and it didn’t leave much room for surprises.  It felt very formulaic all the way through and that even includes the emotional first two episodes which I know many people loved.

Baek Ji Young – 봄비 (Spring Rain)

백지영 – 봄비

I had a big problem with many of the characters in this drama as there doesn’t seem to be much of a transformation with them as the story progressed.  Kang Chi essentially remains the hero but he doesn’t necessarily have a turn like his birth father, Gu Wol Ryung (Choi Jin Hyuk).  Choi Jin Hyuk was actually fabulous in the drama but that was also because his character had a nice arc.

Dam Yeo Wool also remains steadfast in her belief in Kang Chi.  Jo Kwan Woong is sneeringly evil throughout.  So for 24 episodes, we’re treated to the same archetypes, same plotlines and therefore, not much drama.  It was kinda boring.

I loved watching Lee Seung Gi graduate to another level of actor in The King 2 Hearts but I think he took a step back with this role.  Kang Chi is a primitive character and a more suited role if Lee Seung Gi was just starting out in leading roles.  Suzy is charming but her character doesn’t really have an arc.  I did enjoy watching her action scenes and would like to see her continue to try different types of roles.

Jo Kwan Woong.  He should probably be described with a bunch of curse words strung together but allow me to articulate beyond a general character description and why he makes such a poor villain.  What I hate about some dramas is their need to simplify a villain.  It’s so last Century to have the villain twirling their fingers around their mustache and plotting their evil schemes with a sideways glance.  I could literally see Lee Sung Jae looking bored in the role as there didn’t seem much wiggle room for him to maneuver as an actor.

And just as it looks like Jo Kwan Woong is about to say something interesting to Park Chung Jo (Lee Yoo Bi), we’re at the end of the drama.  Of course by that time, I don’t really care to hear it.

As the title suggests, we were supposed to find out about this book that would help Kang Chi achieve his goal of becoming human.  We never really got that answer, at least in a literal sense.  Just like Wol Ryung who longed for his own family, Kang Chi always wanted to feel like he belonged.  As much as Park Moo Sol (Uhm Hyo Sup) raised Kang Chi with patience and love, Kang Chi just didn’t belong with his family.

It wasn’t until he enters the martial arts school that he gets a sense of what a real family feels like.  That feeling extends all the way to the ending which I know many had trouble digesting.  [SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Even though I warned of spoilers, I’ll refrain from explaining too much but was a time jump really all that surprising?  In a Korean drama?  I agree that we could have had more time adjusting to it but his love for his “family” extended as far as their reincarnated versions.  And so perhaps the Gu Family Book was in fact Choi Kang Chi’s family tree of all the people he loved and that loved him back.  Those are the things that made him human.

I did enjoy how the drama does play with time at the beginning of each episode.  We see the same scene but get a bit more information that we haven’t seen before.  Other than that, the drama sticks closely to the rules of the drama game and the character outlines were just roughly drawn, not leaving much room for many of the actors to draw outside of the lines.  It’s alright if I don’t know the rules of the game but as an avid drama watcher, it’s boring to see the same thing over and over again.  The drama is very simplified: clearly defined characters and a clearly defined plot.  For someone who is looking for an uncomplicated drama with beautifully saturated scenery, this might be right up their alley.



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