It was late on a Saturday night. I had watched my Saturday helping of pirates already and found myself wondering what to watch next. I decided that there had to be something else worth watching on Crunchyroll, and in my journey down the page hit the plethora of Korean dramas and comedies that make up the other half of Crunchyroll’s content.

I know very little about Korean dramas. There’s apparently a very hardcore and knowledge fan base out there for this sort of thing, and I’m not it. What I do know is a statement I’ve heard in the past about how “The Korean live action adaptation of XX manga is better than Japanese live action version.” Then again, I had watched some live action Japanese adaptations and they wouldn’t be hard to top. A quick check of the internet tells me that Korea does produce a lot of TV. So, they must know what they’re doing! It’s Saturday night, I had nothing to loose…

So I picked a recent series at random.
It featured a soldier, presumably Gyebaek, in armor and a strangely worded disclaimer of a description:
This period drama was produced to shed light on how noble values championed by General Gyebaek of the Baekje kingdom last much longer than the battle cheers of the victors in history. There is no intention to make this a period drama that glorifies Baekje. Nor is it correct to assume that this TV show intends to rewrite Baekje's history. But for a kingdom that lasted for 680 years, it is time to address the falsehoods that Baekje collapsed due to a tyrant ruler who purportedly was a drunk. There should be a comprehensive look at how Baekje was surrounded by encroaching kingdoms that formed alliances to the detriment of Baekje.

A historical drama with an apologist bent? Can you be an apologist for what is basically ancient history? The wikipedia entry about the lead character isn’t exactly flattering to modern eyes. However, this clearly is not a documentary, and historical fiction is known to play fast and loose with it’s source material. Hey, it worked in Braveheart.

I managed to make it through three episodes of the show and then thought, wait… this show doesn’t have very many comments and it looks like it ended recently. It might be fun to write about my experience watching it from a completely newbie perspective. It might even make for a decent blog on Fandom!

I invite you to join me in my journey into historical themed Korean Drama in a blog which I shall call KO on K-D. A newbie exploration of Korean drama!

KO on K-D: Gyebaek Episode 1 “Extreme Time Jump”
The disclaimer: Spoilers for the Show Abound. Reader Discretion Advised.
Baekje and Shilla face off on the battlefield. Despite Shilla's overwhelming numbers, the Baekje army of five thousand, led by the fearless Gye Baek, stand strong.
(Is it Silla or Shilla?)
So, this is a series about the (fictitious) life of legendary general Gye Baek of the Baekje empire. The man himself existed, but very little is known about his life.
I’d like to say no horses were harmed in the making of this episode, but who knows?
A great way to catch my attention is to start a series in the middle of a battle. The battle scenes are pretty damn impressive. This isn’t a short TV series, the listings run up to episode 36. It makes me wonder at the budget of this show. (It’s certainly a step above any of the syndicated stuff I used to watch on weekends. Especially in the fighting choreography, more on that later.) The costuming and sets are also magnificent, although too clean and immaculate and pretty to be historically accurate. Of course everyone is going to be pretty, this is an idealized historical drama. They don’t play it straight either. There’s some hammy acting and sound effects, and of course crazy impossible fighting, and the most ridiculous music ever…
That's Gye Baek right there, our lead.

My brief look at the background on this series tells me right away that there’s going to be a flashback. I just didn’t know how far it would go. After the scene of one of the last battles, the whole story jumps back in time to the reign of the previous king. That’s quite the jump!

So, we jump back to the reign of King Mu of Baekje and his political troubles. Or more interestingly, his right hand man, Mu Jin. Mu Jin is, as we say in the business, a consummate badass. He’s been single handedly guarding the life of the King’s first wife and her son, who aren’t liked the the aristocracy because she’s originally from Silla, the neighboring country who’s not on good terms with the Baekje kingdom.

Did I mention that he has a lovely wife who is pregnant? No good can come of this.

There are some nice pieces of music in this show, but all in all it seems there are only about five arrangements and the ‘quiet/romantic’ string one sounds hokey as %@#& all. Who’s idea was it to use that on the emotional scenes? Yikes. Also… mixing the traditional music with modern doesn’t quite work super well here. Oh well.

The king has been told for years by the ministers how to govern, with seemingly no will of his own. Which is a shame because he’s not a bad fighter in his own right.

It’s not long before we are introduced to evil bitch… er, the second queen/consort. Look at this woman. She screams evil jealous bitch. (She also has an evil little boy who likes to kill bunnies!!!)

Gee… do you think she’s responsible for the attacks on the Queen and her son? Purist sect my ass, because it’s totally not a front from evil second queen or anything.

Of course, Mu Jin is blocking all the attacks with his newly forged sword of badassery. Ah, overly choreographed fights full of absurd swordplay. Glorious.

I do feel bad for the King, being constantly outmaneuvered by his ministers and second wife. His barely controlled temper isn’t helping him maintain control, and he’s not focusing it on those who really deserve it.

(There are a lot of instances in the subtitles where the notes at the bottom of the screen identifying people, places, or events aren’t being translated. Some shorter ones are, but I can’t help but wonder that the longer notes say. I assume very brief explanations or historical events. After all, this is ancient history we’re dealing with here.)

Of course, we can’t have nice things. Oh but what’s this? Evil bitch has a thing for Mu Jin! How dare she! She better not do anything to his wife!

…Wait, what do these people have to do with Gye Baek? Oh, Mu Jin is his father? You mean he’s not even born yet!? Phew. Well then… it looks like I’m in for quite the long ride.

Gye Baek can be watched on Crunchyroll or Hulu. Hulu’s stream is 16 x 9 (I believe Crunchyroll’s free stream is 4 x 3), although it has the same amount of commercials as Crunchyroll, but Hulu’s stream’s subtitles seemed to be lagging just enough to annoy me, so beware of that. Each episode is a whopping 60+ minutes.

See you next episode!