Gaksital (Bridal Mask) Korean Drama
I know that it’s off topic here. But despite what I’ve watched is a drama, this is based on manhwa. Gaksital or Bridal Mask is a Korean drama I’m watching recently. The drama was produced in 2012 for 28 episodes, but I was late, yeah. I’m so sad to find it late because this drama is a good one, despite many repetitive plots (you’ll see if you watch it and I’ll talk about it later in this post). Finished this in 6 days marathon. This drama had also won 13th Republic of Korea National Assembly Awards for Best Drama of the Year in 2013. A superhero theme full of tragedies and conflicts. Don’t be surprised if your favorite character will die in the end in tragic way. Even a comedic role would be dead too.
For the cast, please refer to Asianwiki. Lee Kang-To (soldier’s name Sato Hiroshi) is the one and only Korean citizen who works as Japanese police officer in Gyeongseong (Now Seoul). It is to make more money, because his older brother, Lee Kang-San became an idiot while in prison after working with independence organization, and he only has a mother (he wanted to bring Kang-San to a good hospital in Tokyo, truthfully). His father already dead when they’re in Manchuria. That’s when Kang-To, as Lee Yeon, met Boon Yi, and gave his precious dagger to her to protect herself from bandits. A lot of years has passed and Kang-To thinks Boon Yi is already dead. Without purpose to live, he becomes the enemy of Korea by becoming Japanese’s dog and a heartless soldier.
But there’s time Kang-To cried behind Kang-San’s back when he thought he’s an idiot who couldn’t listen, telling his brother that he was lost of choosing his path. He wanted to earn money for his brother’s university fees and for their living expenses, and the easiest path is by becoming a soldier. It made Kang-San cried too in silent, for his brother to be his enemy. Anyway, Kang-San was captured by Japanese soldiers and to be free (so he could become Gaksital), he pretended himself as an idiot. Oh yeah, the one who told Kang-San and Kang-To about Kishokai is their father’s subordinate, Baek Gun.
Kang-To is very evil at 4-5 or 6 episodes. He can torture the rebellious young girl, Mok Dan, after catching her until she bleeds awfully. Capture and torturing Mok Dan numerous times so he could meet Gaksital. And he can also kick his brother for being a hindrance to his cruelty amongst Jongno Market people. This is why I thought he was the antagonist until I found his picture being a Gaksital on net. But then, his life changed 180 degree after he found out that his brother, a Gaksital, died from taking revenge against Kimura Kenji, who killed their mother. Gaksital’s purpose is to erase Kishokai, a Japanese evil organization, from this world. Oh yeah, don’t forget that Kang-To had shot Mok Dan once as she tried to kill him, but he saved her after knowing about the dagger (Sadly, Mok Dan didn’t know who saved her).
Kimura Shunji, former Kang-To’s friend. He was an elementary school’s teacher. But after watching his brother’s death by Gaksital, decided to kill the masked man. Kang-To originally met him when he wanted to learn kendo at university. They quickly became best friend.
After Kang-To became Gaksital, he killed Kenji. But Kenji’s younger brother, Kimura Shunji, saw all of it and changed his job from a teacher to the Imperial Japanese’s Captain. Truth is, Kenji is Kang-To’s best friend. He loves Mok Dan (but he knows her name as Esther when she’s a nun) but always hurting her to get his revenge. Interesting fact is, Kang-To still became a police officer lieutenant even after becoming Gaksital to get news and information of Shunji’s tactic.
Everytime Shunji was suspicious of him, Kang-To always had a chance to create circling dialogue and took away Shunji’s mental pride. And his conversation with Mok Dan, after knowing that she’s Boon Yi, had double meaning because Mok Dan didn’t know him yet and hate him for being her and her father’s (Mok Dam Sa Ri) enemy to built a democratic Korea. The first meaning is he always tries to warn her about their enemies, and the second, he wants to hide his identity as Gaksital so he uses brutal language, pretending as Mok Dan’s enemy. For Mok Dan herself, she could sense danger but in the wrong impression (That’s what so sad for Kang-To’s love, to be hated by the girl he likes and just can feel her love when he’s being Gaksital in previous 17 episodes from 28).
Yep, the picture above is after Gaksital saved Mok Dan from Chae Hong-Joo or Ueno Rie and her samurai, Katsuyama Jun, together with Shunji’s father, Kimura Taro‘s plot to kill her. Kang-To as Gaksital received several injuries from Katsuyama. Mok Dan was waiting for Gaksital to catch on her and when he did come safely, he was badly injured. She opened Gaksital’s mask and surprised to found Kang-To, her enemy. But in no time after he awakened, they kissed without the need to tell each other’s feelings. Of course after Kang-To awakened, he told her how he began working as Gaksital. It began when he wore Gaksital mask to take revenge on his mother, but he couldn’t get away from his new goal: to help Joseon people.
Chae Hong-Joo, or Ueno Rie. She is Ueno Hideki’s (the leader of Kishokai) step-daughter for spy-ing purposes in Gyeongseong. She was a gisaeng (similar job but different function with geisha) before and was saved by Kang-To, loved him ever since. But Kang-To only loves Mok Dan.
After that, Kang-To’s plot to go inside Kishokai has to be over because Ueno Rie (or Lala as her singer’s name) found out about his wounded right arm as Gaksital when they fought. But Ueno Rie didn’t tell anyone due to her love for Kang-To, who saved her life when she’s a gisaeng. Meanwhile, because of the hectic situation Kang-To and Mok Dan were in, they couldn’t meet often. What would be sweet of their romance was when they hold hands numerous times, as they couldn’t speak.
Kang-To and Mok Dan were holding hands after Shunji hugged Mok Dan in front of Kang-To, even though he knew Kang-To’s love for her (Shunji is walking in front of them). They only could speak through touching. *sad*
Sadly, Shunji was already turned to a kidnap and prison-ing bastard here. He wouldn’t let Mok Dan go anywhere without his subordinate, even killing the circus troupe member where Mok Dan worked, Oh Dong-Nyeon (Why? She’s one of funniest character in Gaksital) at Dam Sa Ri’s execution place. But with Gaksital and the revolution comrade’s help, they could save Dam Sa Ri. Well, Kang-To’s rank must degraded from lieutenant to mere officer thanks to Shunji and the new chief, Murayama Yoshio. Here, Shunji was already felt suspicious about Kang-To, who always absent when there’s Gaksital. Of course he had guessed him as Gaksital a few times (but thanks to Kang-To’s intelligent to talk back, he could change the situation as he pleases).
Then, Yang Baek, leader of Korean revolution, appeared with the return of Dam Sa Ri (Mok Dan’s father). Their comrade began to work together to win against Japan. This is when the situation begins to tense, as Kishokai’s leader, Ueno Hideki, and Yang Baek are finally gathered in Gyeongseong. And considering Yang Baek is the Korean revolutionary leader, I’m glad that Kang-To finally have back-up. But Shunji also knew about Kang-To’s real face as Gaksital, though he pretended not to know. Shunji’s lie wasn’t that long until Shunji told Mok Dan there are two people lying to him, and the one of it must be Kang-To. Sadly, our hero must get caught after he forced himself to steal the armory in Jong Ro Police Station. Of course, he paid it through torture and the worst of it is “box of nails” (a cage full of giant needles).
Thankfully, the kind Teacher Yang Baek won’t move from Gyeongseong until they save Kang-To. His comrade went to police station and successfully got Kang-To back, thanks to the smoke grenades they stole from there. But Shunji found their hideout and Yang Baek must run away. Dam Sa Ri pretended to be Yang Baek, but in the end, he got caught by Shunji and preferred to shot his head. Here, Kang-To finally killed Kimura Taro.
On Kang-To and Mok Dan’s wedding day, Shunji brought his army to their base camp. He wanted to shoot Kang-To, but Mok Dan protected him and got the bullet. Kang-To burried her body himself. Meanwhile, Shunji felt wrong about his action, because he intended to kill Kang-To and live happily with Mok Dan. The truth is, he killed Mok Dan himself. After Kang-To killed Kimura Taro, Shunji did look again at his fault and chose to shoot his head. Kang-To, who is alone now, fight by himself and his comrade for the independence country. The story ends without telling us whether they win or not but based on real Korea now, they have gained freedom.
CHARACTERS & ACTORS
Every actors in Gaksital are very excellent. If they felt sad, they would cry and I could see their redness and swollen eyes. If they’re angry, the eyes could tell too. And Shunji’s actor, Park Ki-Woong, is also good to hide his intention and suspicion towards Kang-To. They were like a real person themselves. One part that’s good was their voice. The anger can be told by shouting, hysteric, or silent. I’ve never rated a K-drama with facial expression this good before. Part of it maybe because I had been watching romance and comedy dramas. But yeah, even though I’ve watched historical one rarely (ex: A Jewel in the Palace, Moon Embracing the Sun), I had never met this kind of drama, which all actors are very impressive. I’m not a Korean actor’s fan, so I didn’t watch their every movie/drama. Just one or two, but here, they’re all very good. Never watched Joo Won this good before. And even though I hadn’t know Park Ki-Woong and Han Chae-Ah before, I like them here. Please watch it for your curiosity of their expression too, especially if you study stage play.
1. Lee Kang-To / Sato Hiroshi / Lee Youn / Gaksital II (Joo Won)
I hate him. I really really hated him in the past. He could kick his brother, torture a woman (Mok Dan), smile after he caught Dam Sa Ri and giving death sentence (supposed to bring revolution to Korea), chasing our hero (Gaksital) and shot him without noticing (of course it made him Kang-San, his brother’s killer), a playboy, and full of ambition. I thought he would be an antagonist in the past after realizing that his brother was the Gaksital and not him. This character improved after he lost families and knowing the truth about Kishokai. But it didn’t make him sweeter to Mok Dan, even after knowing she’s Boon Yi. He pretended to be evil, but inside, he kept his tears of meeting her again (You can see he would began to cry everytime they met from the tears that didn’t come out). He’s clever, he could put back everyone’s suspicion to his mind. And I thought the dialogues were very surprising and true. It didn’t catch anything suspicious and could be caught very well. It’s a playing words, but it can be effective. His character is really growing. Even after he killed Kenji as Gaksital, he didn’t intend to be Gaksital forever. But after he saw poor Joseon people, he decided he must do it until the end.
Joo Won portraits Kang-To very well. He smirked when being a Japanese soldier and tortured Joseon people. But after Kang-To had known the truth, his expression changed to a sad one. His eyes could tell everything. Joo Won and Park Ki-Woong (who played as Shunji) are two great actors because they appears often and their expression can change each time. Their anger and sadness can be told well through the redness on their eyes. I’m glad that I found one of Joo Won’s greatest drama after King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo. His 7th Grade Civil Servant was boring, also Naeil’s Cantabile was bad. I couldn’t keep up watching those two. I don’t dare to watch Good Doctor, even though it’s one of his best drama too because I’ve watched many doctors in K-drama recently. I hope Yongpalyi (Gang Doctor) will be great, although it’s about doctor again. It’s the first time he got a role in SBS drama after being in KBS for a long time. Because SBS always have famous awards despite KBS & SBS drama ratings battle. I don’t care for either channel, as long as they provide good drama.
Some people said that Joo Won’s face is not handsome. I think it’s due to “Lee Min Ho” or “Lee Jong Suk” or a few good-looking actors. But for me, Joo Won is manlier than Lee Min Ho (By the way, I hate Lee Min Ho for his big nose and the only Lee Min Ho’s drama that I watched is “The Heirs”. It was boring too). Joo Won can sometimes have childlike expression a.k.a. cute and the other time, he can stare with cold glare. Of course very different than Lee Min Ho, who usually gave flat cool expression. Joo Won can also have painful expression, either when he’s hurt physically (at the torture room) or mentally (when his wife and families died, or a little hurted by their member’s suicide). That’s obvious, cause he’s a stage play actor before a TV actor. Most of stage actors are very dedicated to their acting and facial expression, unlike ones from a model. You can refer to Matsushita Yuya when he played Sebastian’s role in Kuroshitsuji Musical. He got amazing improvement from the first (2009) to second and the latest (2014) musical. *sorry I always used Lee Min Ho. He’s just an example. But that’s true, right?
Isn’t this the ugliest face of a main actor you can see? I’ve never seen something like this before in Korean drama, even a historical one. Well, Joo Won didn’t do this just once, he had done it a few times here. Can Lee Min Ho do this? Joo Won is ugly with this face, but it pierced my heart when watching. He cried out loud for the dead of his wife.
2. Mok Dan / Esther / Boon Yi (Jin Se-Yun)
Mok Dan in this film is a strong woman. Depsite that, she’s always caught in the end. Has a little bit skill to fight, but can’t fight mere soldier alone anyway. Nothing changed in her character in this whole drama. But one thing I like about her is, she won’t afraid of getting hurt to fight for her country. She was in love with her master, Lee Youn, for this past years. Before she knew that Kang-To is Gaksital, she couldn’t accept that Kang-To is her master. She’s angry for her first love to be a Japanese dog. But when she opened Gaksital’s mask and found Kang-To, she cried due to her fault not believing her master. After gotten married to Kang-To, she found out that Shunji tried to kill her husband. Mok Dan protected Kang-To and got shot by Shunji. Until her last time, she wanted Kang-To to be strong.
I like Jin Se-Yun’s face and her facial expression. When she’s sad, she often greet her teeth. Sadly, her character is the only one keeping courageous like that, but can’t do something that made us say “wow”. It also happened when she was in Doctor Stranger drama. Can’t seem to love her character and just become a pretty face.
3. Kimura Shunji (Park Ki-Woong)
Shunji was a better man than Kang-To until his brother was killed by Gaksital. He always smiles and listen to his pupil, even helping his nanny by selling his father’s katana, who is a Joseon people. But once he loves Mok Dan and pursuing Gaksital, he changed to a cruel man. His love to Mok Dan turned scarier, didn’t permit her to go out alone and kept her hidden in a hotel room. He could also slap Mok Dan if she tried to run or torturing the circus troupe leader to give information about her. Shunji became crazy possessive about Mok Dan, even though somewhere in his heart, he wanted to go back as a teacher. Many times, his curiosity about Kang-To is a Gaksital, must changed because Kang-To uses their friendship as a reason. And it does help Kang-To to get back again. He was sad for killing Mok Dan, when she’s smilling the happiest in her wedding day. Well, that would happen because she’s always feeling sad and angry when Shunji kept her for himself and became a jealous guy. In the end, Shunji shot himself for killing many people.
Park Ki-Woong is also a great actor like Joo Won. He could smile with a soft glance, but could glare with so much anger. I had not watch his movie/drama before, but he’s pretty good in Gaksital.
4. Chae Hong-Joo / Ueno Rie / Lala (Han Chae-Ah)
Being a Japanese Kishokai’s step daughter, Ueno Rie kept loving Kang-To for saving her life in the past. She could tell everyone about Kang-To’s identity, but not. Her past is a tragic one. After her families dead, the 9 years old Chae Hong-Joo brought herself to be a gisaeng on her own mind. Ueno Rie was saved by Kang-To numerous times because of his words, that he was worried about her to betray her country, even though she tried to kill Mok Dan before. She always walks together with her bodyguard samurai, Katsuyama Jun. He loves her but never dare to say it, always does what Rie wants. Ueno Rie lived in fear after Ueno Hideki gave her life to Shunji, so Shunji could kill her. But she’s glad he didn’t do it and chose to go far away in the end. He gave her real Korean name to Katsuyama before leaving, Chae Hong-Joo.
Han Chae-Ah is very beautiful. I can’t say no when she does her makeup similar to Japanese women with kimono. Her expression can also changed from evil to sad. She’s definitely one of best actress in Korea.
5. Lee Kang-San / Gaksital I (Shin Hyun-Joon)
Kang-San pretended to be an idiot so he could be free as Gaksital. He let Kang-To kicked him and all, part of it maybe because he felt sorry for his brother. He couldn’t get them safety and money. But he got a even greatest role to be Gaksital. Kang-San killed Kenji after shooting his mother, but was shot by Kang-To. He never resent Kang-To for doing that, but thankfully, Kang-To followed his footstep. I don’t know why he saved Mok Dan a few times, either he knew that she’s Boon Yi, or he just saved her from Japanese soldier because she’s a revolution member.
Shin Hyun-Joon has good acting skill. While it’s sad to see him getting kicked everywhere because he’s an idiot and always laugh, it’s also cool when he acted as Gaksital.
6. Mok Dam Sa Ri (Jeon No-Min)
He is Mok Dan’s father and the chief of revolution member. He said had escaped from prison 7 times before he was saved by Gaksital the first time (whooa that’s a lot). He left his family and didn’t know that his wife had died in Manchuria. The second time he met Mok Dan again, he heard all that and felt sorry. Dam Sa Ri was captured in most episodes but starting from 21, he came back to Gyeongseong to fulfill his plan. He’s also the first person who trust Kang-To after hearing Kang-To wanted to save Mok Dan, even though he didn’t know that Kang-To was Gaksital. That’s quite funny sinced Kang-To had captured him once and smiled when he got death sentence. But he knew that Kang-To’s word can be trusted. But due to protecting his comrade and daughter, he chose to shoot himself with a gun after Shunji caught him.
Jeon No-Min. I don’t follow old-man’s film. But he’s quite good. Even though Dam Sa Ri have big burden, he often smiles like a wise man.
7. Katsuyama Jun (Ahn Hyung-Joon)
He is Ueno Rie’s bodyguard. He used katana to fight. A tall man with beard and long hair. Despite his boring stare, he loved Ueno Rie and always saving her. Will do everything Ueno Rie told him to do. He tried to save Ueno Rie many times from Ueno Hideki’s intention to kill her. Until the end, he wished to be her shadow, but she refused because it would hurt himself (bring misfortune when he just protected the woman he love without being loved).
8. Abe Shinji (Yoon Bong-Kil)
A one and only loyal subordinate to Kang-To, despite he’s a Joseon and Abe is a Japanese. Even though Kang-To’s rank had been lowered to an officer, he still thought of him as his lieutenant. He’s fat and often being kicked by Kenji or anyone higher. No ending for him, as usual for a comical character.
9. Kimura Taro (Cheon Ho-Jin)
Yep, he’s no.2 antagonist in Gaksital after Ueno Hideki. The father of Shunji and Kenji, but he dislike Shunji for loving Joseon people. Nothing much I can tell about him. Just a normal enemy who must be killed because he always did cruel things. In the end, died by Gaksital.
10. Ueno Hideki (Jeon Kuk-Hwan)
The leader of Kishokai. He is Ueno Rie’s step father. Hideki knew about her condition and often threaten her by saying he would put her back as Joseon. Anyway, he’s truly a powerful leader. Gaksital killed him before he kill Ueno Rie.
11. Kimura Kenji (Park Joo-Hyung)
Shunji’s older brother. He despises Joseon very much and is a captain, before he dies. A tragedy upon him killing Kang-To’s mother was an accident. He believed that Gaksital was Kang-San, but his mother offended when he took his gun. In the end, Kenji must be killed by Gaksital in police station.
12. Baek Gun (Jeon Hyun)
A friend from Kang-To and Kang-San’s father. Most of the time, Baek Gun is hiding and searching for news. He is the one who helps Gaksital in shadow and told Kang-To about Gaksital’s purpose. Always keeps Kang-To company and watching him grow up.
There were many more, but I didn’t write this review as complete as possible. You must watch it yourself because there are many characters and one-by-one, you will remember their role. Even if there’s a character that didn’t get explained well in the beginning, they also had role in the end (see Minami Tamao / Lee Hae-Suk, Kang-To and Shunji’s best friend) who was a brat before, but he helped Yang Baek’s funding then commited suicide) Out of the 4 main characters, I like Joo Won, Park Ki-Woong, and Chae Hong-Joo’s acting. They were all very good actors and could depicted their problem and sadness very well.
The positive thoughts on this drama are:
– Great storyline (Hey, how can the scriptwriter made this story based on only one volume manhwa? He/she must be an expert)
– Powerful dialogues (Kang-To had many crafty dialogues here to save himself from being exposed as Gaksital and how the dialogue moved me for defending Korea)
– Beautiful scenery (That depicted Japan and old Joseon’s city)
– Great costume and makeup (I know why Ueno Rie often wore nude lipstick. She has her own story and it feels she’s worrying too much).
– OSTs are very good. I like the iconic Joo Won’s rock song every time the drama ended. It can moved our heart.
– Unpredicted ending (How can you tell that the heroine died in her wedding day?)
– Tragedy (Yeah, that’s the main point why I watched it. I love tragedies because it touches anyone’s heart. It gave us thoughts about the poor people, right? And Kang-To’s life is full of tragedies. From the death of his families, his co-worker, and his wife. He always feel sad through his expression when one of the revolution member got beaten and killed herself.)
– Repetitive plotline (How can Mok Dan being caught for more than 5 times in this 28 eps drama? And the “revenge” plotline is a bit tiring)
– The Japanese aren’t speaking Japanese. It’s considerable though, because all the casts are Korean (you know that Korean TV should use all Korean, right? Where can I find a Korean drama with foreign country’s actor?) and it’s viewed by Korean people. It would take much cost anyway to dub it.
– Too many older actors can get quite boring for young people, but it’s the truth. You should bare with that. Whatever it is, this drama is still excellent.
– Too many blood and torture. One scene also put fake Gaksital got burnt on his face after using suicidal bomb to save Dam Sa Ri. If you can’t stand blood, you won’t get the ending. I can, though.
I would give 9/10 ratings if not for the repetitive plot to catch Mok Dan. I don’t know why they played catch-hiding-release theme here. The symbol in Kishokai is similar to “キ=ki” in Japanese katakana. Maybe it’s the first letter of their organization. The drama leaves open-ending, where Kang-To and Yang Baek’s comrade gathered to protect their land. Hey, I love Japan’s culture and way of life but I don’t worship anything. Indonesia too, was in Japan’s colonization in the past. They had to protect it from them. But not all Japanese were bad at that time, heard it from my deceased grandmother. At least, this is just a man-made scenario. This drama could make me feel that I must protect Korea from Japan. That’s what’s good from its dialogues. But, just don’t take that as a reason to hate Japan as a whole. It’s all in the past and people changed. I like Japanese ambition and self-centered, though. But I don’t worship anything made by human.