Surely woman rose from the frothy sea, as resplendent as Aphrodite on her scalloped chariot?

Every sacred mission, every hunt for hidden relics, every pilgrimage from one end of the earth to the other … I was looking for you

Dianna Hardy, The Demon Bride

Legend of the Blue Sea (2017)
Also known as
Pureun bada-ui jeonseol
   Comedy, Fusion Sageuk, Sageuk, Romance, RomCom
Written by
Directed by
Country of Origin
 South Korea
20 + 1 special 

oh! … brief

Legend of the Blue Sea follows the love story between a man, Heo Joon-jae (Kim Dam-ryeong in past timeline) and a mermaid, Shim Cheong (Se-hwa in past timeline). The story develops in two timelines, the past (Joseon dynasty) and the present. The love story focuses on reincarnation, fate and unrequited love.

oh! … talks drama

I’ve never fancied myself as a sucker for romantic film or drama but the more I watch Asian love stories, the more I like them. And who can resist a good love story between a mermaid and a man? Guaranteed this production was geared to a much younger generation, but I enjoyed this sweet story of an endearing love through the ages.

Inspired by a classic Joseon legend, writer Park Ji-eun, created his own telling of an unofficial historical tale about a fisherman that captured and then released a mermaid back to the ocean. Along the same style of drama as Saimdang: Light’s Diary, Park Ji-eun decided to use two timelines to weave his magical tale – a story in the past where the main characters first meet – Kim Dam-ryeong and Se Hwa the mermaid and the present-day timeline where Kim Dam-ryeong has reincarnated as Heo Joon-jae, the alienated kid of a rich businessman and Se Hwa has reincarnated as Shim Cheong, still a mermaid.

Without giving away too many details and spoiling the story for people visiting my blog that might be contemplating watching this kdrama, this is a very sweet love story, but it has its fair share of angst and of course, in true kdrama style, drama clichés. You will find an abundance of romance, humour and some melodrama thrown in for good measure as the main characters overcome many obstacles to fulfil their love. It’s really an entertaining drama!

Park Ki-eun’s script starts as a comedic fish-out-of-water tale featuring an obscenely strong mermaid with grade school mentality and zero understanding of modern-day life, but she has travelled a great distance to find the man she loves without truly understanding why she loves him or when she started to love him. She finds him in Spain and follows me later to South Korea. Each episode begins with a flashback to the past timeline where the love story really started. And with each episode, the viewer understands more of the past story and how the history is repeating.

I enjoyed how Park Ji-eun incorporates other elements of fairy tales into his script, like the evil stepmother, a murderous villain, but more than this, the unexpected wavering in the dynamics between the two leading characters and their relationship. In time and with maturing of Shim Cheong, the two leads finally become equals in the relationship.

Park Ji-eun explores loyalty, love, destiny and fate with his script, without making the exploration obvious and always mixing it with fantastical elements. He truly focused attention on developing his characters in the present-day timeline and then weaved their present story back to the past timeline which finally connected all the dots and brought understanding to the overall story. I really like this about the script.

While the predestined love story theme has been done to death by kdrama industry, the fantastical elements, the supernatural powers, the cohabitation shenanigans with the four roommates made the show hilarious and balanced some of the deeper introspection the two leads face. In fact, the bromance between Heo Joon Jae and his con artist buddies Jo Nam Doo and Tae Oh was fun to watch, it reminded me of the Three Musketeers – the poor robbing the rich who have become rich through ill-gotten gains. It was also fun watching the roommates wrap their head around the strange newcomer and her odd behaviours and idiosyncrasies. Lots of fun all around. And the script writing is exceptional!

Director duo Jin Hyuk and Park Seon-Ho used their best efforts to produce a kdrama that was as visually pleasing as the love story in the script, and for the most part, they achieved that, even the CGI was passable when it was used. Given their limited budget I think they did a great job.

I think the locations were chosen and the house with its crazy connecting room was awesome. Lots of aesthetically pleasing landscape, seascape and architecture to appeal to those who think these elements are important. Of course, no kdrama is complete without beautiful wardrobes for both male and female characters and Legend of the Blue Sea checked those off, in some cases double checked them. And the accompanying soundtrack, I loved it. The OST features Love Story by Lyn, A World That Is You by Yoon Mi-rae, Lean On You by Jung-yup (Brown Eyed Soul), Shy Boy by Ha Hyun-woo (Guckkasten), Somewhere Someday by Sung Si-kyung, Wind Flower by Lee Sun-hee, Fool by Ken (VIXX), and Day by Day by Park Yoon-ha among others. My Spotify playlist below contains them all. You’re welcome!

What tied this kdrama and brought it full circle, of course, is the cast. I think the director duo did a good job in choosing the actors and actresses for all the characters, especially the leading male and female who shared a chemistry that was endearing and romantic, but bristling with sexual tension. Surprisingly so.

Playing both Se-Hwa in the past timeline and Shim Cheong in the present-day timeline, Jun Ji-hyun was mermaid perfection! I thoroughly enjoyed watching both stories develop, but got kicks and laughter out of the present-day timeline with all the initial hijinks. I loved her facial expressions and found that she mostly emoted well in her scenes. I laughed with her, I cried with her and I loved her. It was great!

I was no fan of Lee Min-ho, I must be honest. After his performance in Boys Over Flowers I decided to give productions he acted in a wide berth, that’s why I was hesitant at first with this one. I’m glad I gave this show a chance. His acting in this kdrama is so much better, far more genuine and I really like him as an ardent lover instead of a crappy asshole teenaged brat. Okay, rant over. As Kim Dam-ryeong in the past timeline and Heo Joon-jae in the present-day timeline, I think Lee Min-ho carried both performances excellently. I prefer him in the present-day timeline because this performance appeared to come more naturally to him, it looked like he felt more comfortable, more at ease with his character. Perhaps it’s just me, but in the past timeline, he looked uncomfortable at times. Anyway, he is mesmerizing in this kdrama and I never imagined I would ever say that about him. The chemistry shared between his character and Jun Ji-hyun’s character is tangible and sweet without being cheesy. I loved this performance.

Lee Hee-joon played con artist cohort Jo Nam-doo in the present-day timeline and Park Moo in the past. I enjoyed the rivalry between Jo Nam-doo and Shim Cheong. Both vying for the affections of the lead man. Lee Hee-joon played the jealous friend to perfection. But, he also shared a great bromance with his cohorts too. I liked his character and I enjoyed Lee Hee-joon’s overall performance.

A special shout-out to Shin Won-ho who plays genius hacker Tae-oh. Shin Wan-ho’s character is a shy, reserved young man who keeps himself busy playing computer games when he’s not hacking and so the character has very few lines. Shin Won-ho used every facial expression imaginable to convey his emotions and thoughts, without uttering more than a few sentences throughout the production. Kudos on a job well done. I adored this character most of the supporting actors. There was an ethereal quality, I’m not sure if that is what the directors intended, but it’s certainly how it played out.

oh! … sidekicks

Cha Shi-ah, a childhood friend to Heo Joon-jae was played by Shin Hye-sun. I loathe these types of characters most in the kdramas. I just don’t understand them, maybe because I’ve never played second fiddle to someone else in a relationship, I just don’t get it. Performance wise, Shin Hye-sun did the job well.

Lee Ji-hoon played as Heo Joon-jae’s step-brother Heo Chi-hyun and really pulled off the step-brother vying to win over Heo Joon-jae initially but then also pulled off the sly, deceptive stepson vying for his stepfather’s affections and wealth. I found Lee Ji-hoon’s performance somewhat stilted and stiff. I’m not sure if this is because of the direction he received or whether this was his personal interpretation of his character. It just felt a little awkward, but for the most part, it worked when you understand the role of this character in the past timeline. It was a worthy performance however you look at it.

Shim Yi-young who played Moo Yoo-ran, Heo Joon-jae’s mother was brilliant! I loved this performance and I so enjoyed the delivery of her sarcasm. It was hilarious and caused me much cackling!!

Heo Joon-jae’s stepmother and the evil woman incarnate was played by Oh Yeon-ah and she was exceptional as this character. You have to love the woman who conspires to kill her husband, her stepson and run away with the fortune because from the onset you know it’s never going to amount to much. Oh Yeon-ah’s interpretation and consequent inhabiting of her character really pulled the production in the present-day timeline together. And as much as you loathe this character for her conspiring and manipulating ways, you can’t really expect anything else. Oh Yeon-ah was great in this role!

oh! … that’s a wrap

Unlike most films, I review, writing kdrama reviews is relatively easy. This contemporary, fusion sageuk rom-com that combines folklore with the fantastical elements of fairy tales comes together surprisingly well with a strong script, masterful direction and a cast that excelled in the delivery of solid performances.

I was held captive by the simple story and the stunning visual narrative wrapped up with an enchanting soundtrack. I will definitely watch this kdrama again and I will add it to my growing collection.

You will enjoy this if fusion sageuk is your thing and if you enjoy a romance story that has fantastical elements and is more of a fairy tale than anything else.

oh! … tidbits

This production was filmed in Goesan, North Chunhcheong Province in South Korea and in A Coruna, Ribadeo, Lugo, Tossa de Mar and Castell de Santa – Spain. The underwater scenes were filmed in Palau.

 Legend of the Blue Sea is based on a collection of mermaid stories by Joseon scholar, Yu Mong In. In them, a county magistrate released mermaids into the ocean.

This is Jun Ji Hyun’s first drama since 2013’s My Love from Another Star and her first acting role since giving birth to a son in 2016.

This drama is Lee Min Ho’s first since 2013’s Heirs and his last acting role before entering the military for 2 years.

Cha Tae Hyun makes a cameo appearance as a fake shaman in episode 4, marking his and Jun Ji Hyun’s first onscreen reunion in 15 years since co-starring in the hit 2001 film, My Sassy Girl.

Jo Jung Suk makes a cameo appearance as a merman in episode 7.

Krystal makes a cameo appearance as a flight attendant in episode 1. She and Lee Min Ho were costars in Heirs.

Na Young Hee (Heo Joon Jae’s mom) and Hong Jin Kyung (Shim Cheong’s homeless friend) both acted alongside Jun Ji Hyun in My Love From Another Star as her character’s mom and best friend, respectively.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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