City Hunter

Dear Diary:

What I’m about to tell you is highly embarrassing. As soon as I write it all down I’m going to burn this entry. Where do I find matches, do you know?

There’s a drama that I like. That’s nothing new, right? But what’s new, and what’s making me blush, is how I felt long before I started watching the drama and how differently I feel now. My avowals then. My complete turnaround months later. Even at that time it was a first for me, to be heartily sick of an actor that I hadn’t watched in anything. That cauliflower hairdo. That smirk. That too-pretty face. I got so tired looking at that face. It was friggin’ EVERYWHERE.

Last night, after finishing Episode 8 of this drama, I went online to check how many episodes remained. When I saw that I had twelve episodes to go, I felt instantly relieved. And happy. Because I get to dwell on that face some more.

That face. That face does not look anything like the face that I saw everywhere on blog headers, forum signatures, and product ads. Not that I’ve scrutinized his features, nope; rather, I had grown so averse to his likeness I would look the other way. Lee Min-ho fatigue. Man, did I suffer from it during and after Boys Over Flowers.

But now? Now I don’t see Lee Min-ho when I look at that face, I see only City Hunter. I see only Lee Yoon-sung, a 28-year-old professor who hails from M.I.T., now working undercover at the Blue House. I see a character I feel fiercely protective about, who makes my heart race and ache. I see a man who’s strong but also vulnerable, a man who reminds me of Jung Il-woo’s Iljimae.

I do not know yet if I will love Lee Yoon-sung as much as I love Iljimae, but that is not what’s making me red-faced the last few days. Do you know how many screen captures I’ve taken of our city hunter, dear diary? At least 600. And I had professed to be allergic to that face. Hahaha.

Not only that, my poor readers are going to need umbrellas when they come to the blog. Because it’s raining City Hunter headers. Specifically Lee Yoon-sung headers. I, who used to grumble about people going berserk with the Lee Min-ho headers, am now making them by the truckload. And unleashing them with unbridled glee, never mind that they’ve been cobbled together with zilch artistic flair. Not that anyone’s complaining, mind you, although my sweet pal Softy, who’s recapping City Hunter on her blog, just emailed to say this:

Your latest CH with the mask almost gave me a heart attack – he looks so desperate there.

What Softy does not know is that I have more “CH with the mask” headers stashed away, like this one:

And one sans mask but with a towel instead:

I’ve not added them to the blog because I don’t want to be too obvious. I don’t want anyone doubled over or twittering to the gang, “Good grief, the unthinkable has finally happened. Thundie’s gone potty over Lee Min-ho!” Oh well, no one’s going to be any wiser because I’m telling only you.

Why this sudden craziness? It’s really simple. The drama is crack of the highest order. Lee Min-ho is burning up the screen. See, just like that.

When I stop to think about it, it’s like it’s all predestined. Me caving in, I mean. The drama opens and right away I squeal.

Kim Sang-joong. Park Sang-min.

Two actors I adore and respect. Playing presidential guards in a foreign land, replete with the steely gaze and furrowed brows. Together in the same scene and the next one and the next one, like they’re inseparable. Until Park Sang-min’s character dies early in the episode, in what must surely be the slowest slow-mo death scene ever. (And I’m gutted inside. No one told me Park Sang-min was playing a mere cameo, waahhh! Where are you going, come back!)

One episode is all it takes for everything to fall in place. The ultimate betrayal. The ultimate revenge. A month-old baby wrenched from his mother and then raised for one sole purpose: to snuff out five men who snuffed out twenty including his father. The baby grows into a strapping lad and I do a double take. This is Lee Min-ho? When did he become so tall? Where did that nose come from? And who styled his hair?

Trivial questions, those. Because soon I’m so immersed in the story unfolding on screen I don’t think about the actor behind the character anymore. I’m swept along by the pain and the pathos, Yoon-sung’s mom grieving for a husband who promised to return quickly but doesn’t. Her screams for the baby who has disappeared. Her utter bewilderment at how her world has suddenly collapsed. Her sorrow.

That sorrow mirroring that of Iljimae’s mother. Kim Mi-sook turning in a performance just as compelling and heartbreaking (even if I’m initially taken aback that the drama has her cast as Park Sang-min’s wife, so used am I to the two playing roles which are a generation apart).

Kim Mi-sook’s Lee Kyung-hee will spend the next twenty-eight years waiting to be reunited with her lost son. Unknown to her, her husband’s best pal is now father to the child he snatched away. Unknown to her, Lee Jin-pyo is now Steve Lee, a man who has lived the last twenty-eight years preparing for one mission.

My favorite King Jeongjo a villain here. Charismatic, cruel. Hell-bent on revenge. His enraged eyes like slits. Possessing an otherworldly ability to pop up when least expected, a maimed leg posing no impediment at all.

The Kim Sang-joong and Lee Min-ho pairing. If you told me two years ago that I would one day trip over myself gushing about this pairing, I would have yelled “Don’t be ridiculous!” so loudly I would likely burst your eardrums.

Some of the most gripping scenes in this gripping drama? Father and son in their dangerous one-upmanship duels, the former obsessed with killing his enemies, the latter adamant that an eye-for-an-eye vengeance is not the City Hunter’s modus operandi.

What will the son do to stop the father? Almost anything.

Because what the City Hunter loves, he protects. That includes the father who raised him from infancy, who has perpetrated a sickening lie that Yoon-sung has yet to uncover. “Your mother abandoned you.”

No, she did not, you villain you. Not content with kidnapping your best friend’s child, you turn him against his mother as well, so that he grows up misunderstanding and hating her? How dare you! And no, don’t you try luring me over to your side with your smile or your shades. This is not Eight Days where I’m a puddle of drool before Your Sexy Majesty.

You know what is amazing, dear diary? Lee Jin-pyo is so sure he has raised an unfeeling beast, but look at how Yoon-sung has turned out!

Not only does he tower over everyone else, his personality and principles stand tall, too. He’s sweet-natured, he’s affectionate. He leaps over buildings but does not mind frolicking in a fountain. He’s smart as a whip but can’t tell the difference between coffee that’s been percolated most professionally and coffee that comes from a cheapo three-in-one mix. He sucks at judo.

Without any effort on his part (and with plenty of embarrassment on my part), Lee Min-ho has turned me into a star-struck City Hunter fan.

To think I used to dismiss him as an overhyped actor with no acting chops. How would I know about the latter if I had not seen him in a single drama or movie? My ignorance, my prejudice. I deserve to be knocked on the head with Lee Jin-pyo’s walking cane.

In an ensemble of veterans who make acting seem so effortless, Lee Min-ho holds his own and then some. In his Lee Yoon-sung I’ve found another unforgettable screen hero, like the Iljimae I continue to miss. His eyes are pools, of compassion and also loneliness. He is committed to his father’s cause; he will die for that cause, if necessary. But his way is different from his father’s way; he will not take a life. Because when it’s all over he wants to live like everyone else. To walk down a street without a care in the world. To love a girl without fearing that she will become a hindrance that his revenge-crazed father must eliminate.

Do I like our OTP (one true pairing) in City Hunter? Oh yes!

When his eyes light up after recognizing her at the Blue House, when she sits triumphantly on him after yet another judo sparring session, when he cooks up an excuse to move into her apartment, when he risks his life to save hers… In all of their bantering and bickering—all that a front for how quickly they’ve gotten under each other’s skin—I’m grinning like one who’s been bequeathed a whole library of favorite books, each one signed by its author.

In a revenge thriller, and with a title that immediately conjures up images of bloodshed and violence, how sweet and adorable is this couple?

I love that they can be quiet next to each other, their body language an implicit nod to their partnership. They feel so right together. Sorry, Micky Yoochun.

Park Min-young’s so pretty, isn’t she, diary? And she’s doing all right, too, except for scenes where she must wail. I vote that the drama rein in the repeated flashbacks of Kim Na-na’s reaction at the accident site which claimed her mother’s life and left her dad in a vegetative state. Hmm, I wonder how Lee Min-ho will do in a similar scene. I can’t see him jumping and screaming in a school uniform, can you? He’s such a giant. A really hot giant.

You know the Yoon-sung scenes I love? When he’s outside Na-na’s apartment or coming down from that building that reminds me so much of the hellhole in the movie Sorum. I bow to you, PD-nim. I bow to you, cinematographer. So perfectly framed, these scenes. Not when he’s on another daredevil mission but when he’s walking alone deep in thought, torn between his loyalty to his father and his love for Na-na. Trying to do his best. Trying to do what’s right. These are the moments when my heart tightens the most for our city hunter.

Eleven episodes into the drama and I’m struck by how tightly the writer has scripted the plot. This has every potential to be convoluted, what with the Hated Group of Five in the top echelons of political power. Yet it has remained singular in its focus and execution. The five to be destroyed ONE AT A TIME. Their stories interwoven and yet distinctive. So exciting the suspense and also so entertaining.

City Hunter is barrels of fun, diary. It engages me on the visceral level but never insults my intelligence. There are no stock characters stuck in there as mere plot devices. Okay, maybe the president’s youngest daughter, who’s there to make the president look stupid somehow. But I don’t really mind her because she brings out the grumpy Yoon-sung. Do you know how cute he is when he’s irked? But not as cute as the positively beaming Yoon-sung when he manages to squirrel his way into Na-na’s apartment as landlord and housemate.

The thing about City Hunter is that it’s not stingy with the dishy; there’s enough to go around. If a viewer’s not taken with Yoon-sung (how is that possible, though?), he or she just needs to look a little farther.

I said “farther,” not “father”!

Oh well, let’s not begrudge the older man his time in the sauna sun; who knew what a dish he might have been years ago? Enough to beget a son like our prosecutor.

The last time I watched Lee Joon-hyeok was two years ago in City Hall where he played Cha Seung-won’s secretary. What a pleasant surprise to see him here in a fleshed-out second lead role where he’s given plenty of room to shine and leave a mark. The prosecutor seeking justice and upholding the law, yet secretly hiding a dastardly secret about his politician father. The divorcee who can’t seem to get over his wife. The Daddy-Long-Legs who’s been supporting and writing to Na-na for ten years. The city hunter’s pursuer.

At one point in the drama Yoon-sung asks Kim Young-joo point-blank: “You follow me around so much, do you like me?”

Of course he does, silly Yoon-sung! Don’t you see how his eyes gleam at the sight of you, and how he fairly salivates? The more I watch the two of you together, the more I see the beginnings of a beautiful bromance friendship. It shouldn’t be long before you two realize you’re on the same side.

There’s another beautiful friendship here and this one is touching in the pair’s devotion to each other. In fact, the older man is practically a mother to the motherless Yoon-sung, feeding and protecting him. Though fearful of Lee Jin-pyo’s wrath, Bae Man-deok will do anything for Yoon-sung, even smearing the latter’s shirt with dollops of snot.

Heart and humor. I didn’t expect to find both in City Hunter but I am. But why am I surprised at the humanity on display here, diary? After all, the second female lead isn’t a bitch but an animal-loving vet. She’s not elbowing Na-na for Yoon-sung, at least not in the eleven episodes I’ve watched so far.

I like Jin Se-hee because of how Hwang Sun-hee plays her, stoic and quietly observant, seeing but not demanding to know. I like her because she’s our city hunter’s friend. Welcome to the Yoon-sung fan club, dear doc. Thank you for not ratting on him to your ex-husband, the zealous prosecutor.

So I’ve found myself a new drama to like. In three weeks it will end and then the sadness will start all over again. I don’t know why, dear diary, but it’s been hard bidding goodbye to the dramas I’ve loved this year. This past weekend was especially difficult.

But City Hunter has come along, an unexpected salve, and I’ve gotten so addicted to it, too. It’s pure escapism. It’s Lee Min-ho. It’s thundie eating her biggest humble pie ever.

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136 thoughts on “City Hunter

  1. this video has nothing to do with CH, but Min Ho is together with best buds Jung Il Woo and Kim BUm…pretty boys!!! if they ever do a drama together, plus Jang Keun Suk, i can die happily 😀 Ockoala did a post regarding their bromance too. ‘love the Kdrama bloggers!

  2. LOL how l hate LMH’s hair in BOF, unlike curly hair of Matsujun in Hana Yori or Jerry Yan’s pineapples’s hair in Meteor Garden, still LMH is the worst curly hair ever. Just because of the hair, l don’t prefer to watch LMH in BOF, even maybe it is quite a good drama. l watched Personal Taste with hopes that LMH looks better but unfortunate that Personal Taste who has a high rating do not interest me, but LMH’s kiss in it is hot.

    LMH in City Hunter is awesome, cool man. l simply couldn’t wait for incoming episodes every single week. l really had a stupid crush on Lee Yoon Sung, the person behind the mask. It does knock me. But what to do, it only 2 episodes left to 20, l’m going to re watch it again and again just for the sake of LMH.

  3. How big exactly is that humble pie because I need a whopping big slice too!

    The funny thing about Lee Min Ho is that my admiration of his looks seems to be largely based on how his hair is styled. Looking at pics from Personal Taste (I won’t even go there on the BOF cut) and even in one scene of City Hunter where he had his bangs off his forhead the hotness was greatly diminished and he was (dare I say it) almost average looking in my eyes! But give me the messy Thailand hair or the City Hunter cut and I am swooning. There is absolutely no denying those lips though!!!

    Shallow issues aside, I HEART this show. I love how it brings the cuteness as well as leaving you biting your nails wondering what will happen to our hero. I just hope the ending isn’t as depressing as I feel it might possibly be because I don’t want to be a crying wreck.

    • And can I also just say that this is so the year of great bromances. You have Ding Dong and Dokgo Jin, Dong-joo and Young-kyu, Dong-joo and Ma-roo, Ah Soo-ra and Andre, and now Yoon-sung and his Bae Man-deok ahjussi!

  4. Thundie, make it two humble pies. I could eat one with you.

    I feel exactly like you about Lee Min Ho .Except you express it better. Infact, you are untouchable in your writing skill.

    Until last week, I wouldn’t touch LMH with a 10 foot pole. So adverse was I to his pretty boy looks. So skeptical was I that pretty faces can’t act to save their lives. So obsessed was I with only Micky Park Yu Chun.

    Now, so infactuated am I with LMH in City Hunter that I am beginning to question my long held prejudice against all pretty boy actors. There are pretty boy actors and there is Lee Min Ho. Just like there are singer -actors and there is Micky YuChun.

    Looks like I have a problem deciding who I would be more crazy over – LMH or YuChun. But it is a happy problem.

  5. Kristal , my fellow LeeMinHo obssesed sufferer. I am but a new born Minoz , one week old.

    Let’s share some hair raising stories.

    I understand how you feel about finding his tousled hair sexy as against the geeky one baring his forehead. I feel somewhat like you. But it looks like LMH has to go down history as that broccoli-hair boy from “Boys over Flowers”? I still wake up in the middle of the night,sweating buckets from nightmares of giant cauliflowers/broccoli chasing after him and demanding to replace every hair follicle on his head with their cabbage family.

    Just look at Micky YuChun.His wide forehead is legendary. He was teased by his JYJ mate Junsu as being wide enough for a soccer pitch. So hair stylists tend to let bangs sweep over his forehead to cover the huge expanse. But look at such a “cover up” style in Miss Ripley that ended recently. It doesnt flatter him one bit.

    Instead they cut it off in the last few episodes and hey presto! he looks so much brighter and more credible as a 33 year old hotelier.

    So if we can all forget the vegetable patch over LMH’s head in Boys Over Flowers (shouldn’t the drama be called “Veggies over Boys” instead ? ),we may learn to love any hair style LMH sports.

    I really don’t care what style as long as I am given a chance to run my fingers through it.

  6. Don’t know where to say this except here…

    Am so sad that City Hunter is over! What to do with this hole in my heart? And why did I start watching it so late, arrgghh? It’s like I spent just 2-3 weeks with it and now it’s done and I have no more Lee Yoon-sung City Hunter to look forward to. Waaah!!!!!

    • I don’t know where to say it either. I posted another one on your Biscuit Candy post, hahaha! So I am repeating myself here. See… I had to re-read your post and the tons of comments hoping it would help…

      Thundie my dear, pretty please… write something.. I need to read from you so we can recover together. let us hold each other’s hands while we grieve, ok? Do you hurt too? Is the hole in your heart this huge gaping one too? Did you cry when Young Joo died oh, so characteristically righteous? Did you weep when Jin Pyo made that last heroic act of paternal love? You are one of the best (if not the best in my book) writers in the k-drama blog-o-sphere, and your words always resonate with me… that’s why I’m asking you… and that is not a bribe!!!

      • Thundie, I so agree with Wits that we need a space to mourn the ending of City Hunter, just like how you managed the ending of SKKS with an epic finale with accounts from various hard core SKKS addicts.

        We need closure. We need to know how to stop the longing for Lee Yoon Sung or is it Lee Min Ho and park that longing somewhere while LMH contemplates which project to take on next.

        And I wish the romance between Lee Yoon Sung and Kim Nana had ended on a more upbeat note than what the writer gave us. I mean, how much romance can you wring from a glrl dragging a suitcase on some public walkway when she imagines seeing her loved one in her blind spot? And why did the suitcase dragging ended up in the City Hunter driving away alone? Wasn’t there space in his car to accommodate just one lady passenger and her suitcase ?

        And where does the suitcase fit into all this ? It is bothering me that they introduced a piece of baggage that does nothing for us.

        I am not asking for some sex manual like what I suspected Micky YuChun demanded in the finale of SKKS. I just wish LMH had let his hormones run riot and begged for a smooching scene with Park Min Young in his car while it was on auto cruise.

          • Dear Thundie,

            And can I request a piece (even a very very tiny small piece) on the Prosecutor Young Joo??? I know that you have crush on LMH/LYS/CH, but YJ deserves some mention too, right? I like CH a lot and have had hard time now after its ending, but mostly because my heart is still ache over YJ. I never request something like this anywhere, but I love your insights (not only in CH, but in other stuff, too), so I just need to hear something, ANYTHING, from you on YJ and CH! No, no, I don’t ask you to take my side or anything, I just need to hear some reasoning about YJ so that I can stop talking to myself and go crazy!

    • All I gotta say is I cannot wait until the dvds are out so I can rewatch! There are very few shows I am anxious to rewatch, especially so soon after first viewing, but I think this is one I will love just as much the second time around.

      Let’s just hope Lee Min Ho’s next project isn’t a stinker like Personal Tastes of BoF. Somebody somewhere mentioned he should try doing a period drama, now THAT is something I would be interested to see. He needs to play an Iljimae/Hong Gil Dong like character preferably.

  7. Pingback: In which I mourn the end of City Hunter – thundie's prattle

  8. To my fellow CH lovers who wish for a re-watch so soon after it ended, be jealous, be very jealous. Of me.

    I am re-watching upto Episode 9 to night on my cable TV channel in my country. I have a few more weeks to luxuriate in the charms of Lee Min Ho. Now I have a second chance at counting his eyelashes when mesmerised by those expressive saucer size orbits above the dark mask.

    And since when did a black piece of textile draped over the nose and mouth look so sexy since Anthonio Banderas introduced us to Zorro more than a decade ?

    But there is nothing

    • Sorry, error in earlier posting.. continuing……….

      But there is nothing like commiserating with fellow sufferers over the ending of CH , led by Chief Mourner Thundie.

      Thundie, you are the best there is. Lead us. To mourn. To cry. To long. To heal.

  9. I miss City Hunter already so much (after only 1 day) that I read your entries about it again. *___* And finally I can enjoy all the recaps of Dramabeans. ^^ If you feel like to “mourn” more about City Hunter and wuri Yoon-sung, just know that I WILL READ IT, hallowed thy your blog and our City Hunter which art in k-drama heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy city come. They will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily Yoon-sung need, and forgibe us our debts (as in objectifying him) as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation (of kidnapping him to keep him for ourselves), but deliver us from evil: For thine is the city and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. *ggg*
    I’m no believer, really, (although I’m a Buddhist), but City Hunter somehow gave me back my believe in TRUST. That was MY message I got from the drama an one reason more to love it and also to respect Lee Min-ho as the messenger. He really did a great job graduating from the pretty flower into an “actor”. Even reminds me of Christian Bale… *___*

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