Iljimae is a sageuk (historical) that tells the story of Yong (Lee Joon Gi) who appears to be a troublemaker to his family and the town, but he actually has a secret identity…he’s Iljimae, a masked man who robs from the rich and gives to the poor! Of course, things aren’t quite that simple. He’s on a mission to uncover the reason behind his father’s death many years earlier and helping the townspeople is an added benefit.
Iljimae came out in 2008 and was a huge success. I have seen older dramas, but it is the oldest saguek I have seen. Saguek’s also aren’t my favorite genre. There are several that I love, but a lot that are just okay. Luckily, I loved Iljimae! I found myself immediately interested in the characters and their story.
Yong’s real name as a child was Geum, played by an adorably young Yeo Jin Goo. Yong/Geum’s father is murdered because of a government conspiracy that also causes Yong to be separated from his remaining family and forced into hiding with a new family. Of course after a lot of trauma, he gets amnesia and forgets all about his past.
We eventually fast forward to the present where he is now a young man played by Lee Joon Gi. He is a bit irresponsible and is always causing trouble. His pretend father Sae Dol (Lee Moon Shik) is a long time thief, but he has a heart of gold. He is constantly trying to keep Yong out of trouble and give him a better life.
I absolutely love Sae Dol’s character. He easily gets himself into trouble, but he is willing to give his all for Yong even though he is not his real son. Although far from perfect, he also tries his best to be a good husband to the love of his life, Dan Yi, who is sadly very bitter and shows little affection towards him.
Romance certainly is not the focus of the drama, but Yong has two lovely women in his life. The first is Lady Eun Chae (Han Hyo Joo) who he met as a child. She sees Yong as irresponsible, but harbors feelings for his Iljimae persona.
Bong Soon (Lee Yeong Ah) is the second lady in Yong’s life. They fight and get on each other’s nerves, but eventually they develop a strong bond. Bong Soon was so vibrant and fun to watch, especially her comical interactions with her father Yong Jae (Ahn Kil Kang). Ahn Kil Kang just happens to be my favorite ahjusshi. He is wonderful in sageuks and does so well at being both serious and comical.
There were also birth secrets galore in this drama! Because of a great deal of secrets kept by Yong’s pretend mother Dan Yi, Yong actually ends up directly pitted against his own brother Ja Dol (Park Shi Hoo) on many different levels throughout the entire drama. It made for a very interesting dynamic.
Yong’s development into Iljimae was surprisingly slow. He gradually gathered his skills as the show progressed, and it’s not until the latter third that he truly embodies the Iljimae character. I loved watching Yong grow both in skills and as a person.
The drama definitely felt older, but I thought the pacing was great and I was never bored. There was a lot of fun action and plenty of wonderful characters to go around. If you haven’t seen it, you should give it a go. If you have, what did you think of Iljimae?
My Rating: 9/10
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