Nam Joo Hyuk (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo) and Shin Se Kyung (Six Flying Dragons) star in a modern retelling of a supernatural romance. When the god of water descends upon Earth and seeks the help of his destined bride, he first has to convince her that he isn’t a delusional maniac.
Habaek (Nam Joo Hyuk) is a water god. Don’t let the legends fool you, though. Gone are the days of gods being old men in robes. Habaek is a chic youth with impeccable fashion and flawless hair. He is also narcissistic and wants his heavenly throne at all costs. Habaek comes to Earth to find a magical stone that will grant him the power he wants. And he expects his destined bride and servant to help him. Just one problem, though: His bride does not believe he even exists.
So Ah (Shin Se Kyung) is a psychiatrist. She has her own practice, but she is also buried in debt. Her family is allegedly cursed to serve the gods forever. However, So Ah is a realist with no time for superstition. So when the doctor meets a man who claims to be the legendary water god and who expects her to serve him as his bride, her diagnosis is that he is simply delusional.
And before Habaek can convince his wife of who he is and what he needs, some of his “friends” join him on Earth.
Hoo Ye (Im Ju Hwan from Uncontrollably Fond) is a demigod. A CEO of a resort, Hoo Ye also happens to fall in love with So Ah and therefore becomes Habaek’s main rival. Moo Ra (f(x) and Heirs’ Krystal Jung) is a water goddess. A beautiful and famous actress, Moo Ra has a one-sided love with Habaek and understandably dislikes his wife. Bi Ryeom (Gong Myung of 5urprise and Drinking Solo) is a wind god who secretly loves Moo Ra and holds a grudge against the man that she loves.
With all these people gunning for them, it is now up to Habaek and So Ah to find the magical stone and restore a balance of power in the heavens. If they can stop bickering first, that is.
Directed by Kim Byung Soo (Nine, Queen In Hyun’s Man) and written by Jung Yoon Jung (Incomplete Life (Misaeng), Arang and the Magistrate), The Bride of the Water God is a modern take on the popular historical fantasy manhwa Bride of the Water God. The drama’s original broadcast period is from July 03, 2017 to August 22, 2017 on tvN.
Where to even begin? This review pains me to write. Bride of the Water Gods was originally a sunjung-manhwa, that is to say, a South Korean graphic novel aimed towards adolescent girls. For those into manga/anime, sunjung-manhwas are the Korean equivalent to Shojo manga. The English version of this manhwa was originally released by Dark Horse Comics in 2007. And while I don’t want to be that person, I have been a fan since the very first issue was released.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw advertisements for the live action drama earlier this summer on Dramafever. Honestly, I don’t think there are words to describe my feeling when I first saw the ad. I have such strong feelings for the manhwa to begin with that I imagine it’s similar to the emotions of the fans whose favorite novels and comics have been making it to the silver screen over the past decade (hello Twilight and Avengers anyone?)
Again, I have no words to describe my utter disappoint once I finally learned more about the show. First, the show is set in modern times. Okay, I can get behind that if it is done well.
It was not done well.
In fact, the only thing the two shows have in common are the character names/roles (a.k.a what they are gods of) and the overall theme that Habaek is a water god and So Ah is his bride. That’s it. The similarities stop there.
I think I could have gotten behind this adaptation if pulled more from its source material. Instead, I felt like the show completely ignored and disrespected the source material. Even this I could forgive if it was still an enjoyable show.
But it wasn’t.
In fact, it felt like every other run of the mill romantic drama pumped out of South Korea. It followed the same rubric that they all do. Firstly, there is the comic relief side character(s). Next is the lead male love interest who honestly is a d*** but it’s okay because he’s rich/hot/powerful. Then there is the main female lead who is quirky but down on her luck in some way. Of course, there is also the secondary female who is usually a b**** but beautiful and successful and is better suited for the lead male (at least according to the lead female.) Last, is the secondary male is always sweet and helpful to the lead female and, honestly, should end up with her but always gets passed over for the lead male. Sometimes, there is that third male who is love with the secondary female and hates the lead male. And BotWG had enough cast to fill that role, too.
EVEN THEN, I could have forgiven the show if ANY of these characters were noteworthy. But again, they weren’t. While there is nothing wrong with the characters or the way the actors portray them, they just weren’t anything special. Even Park Shin Hye, who has played in like a thousand different romantic dramas brings a little extra something to each character she plays to make them interesting. I felt that each character from BotWG could have been switched out with any other character from the same mold from any other drama and it would have been the same. There was nothing to commend them, nothing to make them unique or even interesting for that matter.
In the manhwa, Habaek is stoic, poised, and dignified. In the show, they just turned him into an arrogant a**hole. The manhwa’s version of So Ah was quiet but intelligent. In the show, So Ah is a psychiatrist but not a good one at that. In fact, it was cringe worthy to watch her. Habaek consistently tries to explain to the viewer that some of her actions are done because she thinks like a psychiatrist, but she doesn’t. The viewer shouldn’t have to have this explained to them if its seen in her actions/thought process.
It wasn’t just the characters that bothered me, but the story line as well. Right from the get go, they get things wrong. The show took out the very things that made the manhwa memorable and interesting such as So Ah being sacrificed to Habaek and Habaek’s curse. In the show, it’s So Ah who is cursed (because of course she is) instead of Habaek. And it’s not even an interesting curse. Her family is cursed to serve the gods. That’s it. It honestly just felt like weak writing. Whereas in the manhwa, Habaek is cursed to appear as a child during the day, only reverting to his true form at night with So Ah completely ignorant to said curse.
The drama also starts early on but feels over the top and strained. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a sucker for a damsel in distress being saved. Just not when it’s twice an episode.
I feel like I have prattled on enough and I am tired of being depressed over a show that could have been amazing but wasn’t. I mean look at Howl’s Moving Castle! Both Miyazaki’s film and Jones’ book are amazing stories in their own right despite being so vastly different. I think had I not known about the manhwa, I could have enjoyed the show more, even with its shortcomings not related to the manhwa.
The one good thing I can say about the show is how gorgeous everything looks, including the CGI. The manhwa had gorgeous artwork, so I was pleased, and a little obsessed, with how gorgeous the show looked as well. I mean look at Habaek in his god form. Look at him!