By: Sarah Chrzastowski
City Hunter is, by a landslide, my favorite drama of the year. It’s definitely in my top 5 dramas I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s probably in my top 5 favorite TV shows of all time. And I watch ALL the TV shows, so that’s saying something. If you haven’t yet seen City Hunter, I suggest you stop wasting your life and watch it immediately. It has everything: Vigilantism, revenge, plot twists, melodrama, and, of course, a heartwarming love story.
So many dramas that I watch are romantic comedies, or at least rely heavily on romance for their plotlines. It’s nice to be able to mix it up every now and then with a more suspenseful, thrilling drama like City Hunter. It still has it’s aw shucks moments, but City Hunter gets extra points for perfectly balancing out the action and tension with romance and more tender moments. Watching City Hunter, I got my action and thrills that I crave, but also the sweet mushy stuff that I love just as much as a good fight scene.
For the uninitiated, the story starts in 1983, when five South Korean officials must hastily abort a secret mission to assassinate North Korean officials. It’s too late to call back their men, and they can’t let anyone find out they were planning this attack, so the officials send snipers to kill every South Korean soldier sent on the mission. One of the men, a new father, ends up taking a bullet to save his friend, and ends up dead. The friend hides from the snipers and survives the attack, so while the five men responsible think there are no witnesses, there is one - and he’s out for revenge.
The sole survivor, Jin-Pyo, steals his dead BFF’s baby (from a grieving widow!), and runs off into the jungle. This is dramatic enough, but then Jin-Pyo raises the boy, Yoon-Sung, as his son and trains him to be an expert fighter, shooter, and all around killer. This is all part of Jin-Pyo’s plan for revenge on the five men that killed their own countrymen all those years ago in Pyongyang. Yoon-Sung grows up to be a super-fighter, and eventually returns to Korea to find the five men responsible for his bio-dad’s death and kill them one by one.
Before Yoon-Sung starts his mission, his father tells him that he needs to be heartless, and that he can’t fall in love. So, naturally, falling in love is like, the second thing Yoon-Sung does once he’s in Korea. The revenge and fighting are totally engrossing, but the love story is just as fantastic. Some of my favorite scenes were when Nana and Yoon-Sung were in judo training and she beat him up. That is, she beat him up until he busted out his City Hunter moves and beat her right back. I love that Nana is just as much of a badass as Yoon-Sung - they’re both tough and are willing to fight for what they believe in. The fact that Lee Min-Ho and Park Min-Young are dating in real life just adds to the charm of their onscreen relationship.
At its core, City Hunter is a revenge thriller. Every story line branches out from the “you killed my father, prepare to die” premise. Even the swoonworthy romance is messily intertwined with the revenge plot. This focus on the central storyline grounds the show, and keeps the story tight and always moving forward. This is a HUGE plus. How many shows have you gotten invested in that had great storylines, but got off track and took a nosedive, and ultimately leave you disappointed?
I think City Hunter can appeal to all audiences. I mean, it’s basically Korean Batman, and who doesn’t like Batman? (I know City Hunter is based on an original manga, but humor me: It’s Batman.) We’ve got Yoon-Sung as Bruce Wayne: A guy with endless funds that’s perceived as a playboy, and who’s out to avenge the death of his parent(s). Sik-Joong is Alfred, the caring right hand man that does his boss’s bidding (and laundry). Commissioner Gordon is Young-Joo, the man who shares our hero’s ideals, but tries to fight crime through legal channels. Although they don’t always agree, Gordon/Young-Joo depends on Batman/City Hunter to bring justice to the city. Both stories weave together revenge, masked vigilantes, interpersonal drama, and slick action to create thrilling and enthralling stories.
City Hunter is amazing, but it could be a terrible show and I’d watch it just for Lee Min Ho. He’s so charismatic and attractive, I can’t NOT love him. I’m six months older than him, and I hear Min Ho likes his noonas, so could this mean we’re destined for an epic love story all our own? Yes, that’s exactly what it means.
I suggest you use your downtime this holiday season to get all cozy and have a City Hunter marathon. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth a second, third, and hundredth viewing. City Hunter is a slick, well-crafted revenge thriller with heart - AKA the perfect TV show, and, in my opinion, the best drama of the year.
Sarah Chrzastowski writes about the things she loves at Itswhatyouneed, and is @sarchrz on Twitter.