Iljimae (2008)

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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 5,126 users
Reviews: 33 users

Set during the Joseon Dynasty, Yong acted as a hooligan in the marketplace by day but at night he was a thief who robbed corrupted government officials to give to the poor. After each robbery he left behind a painting depicting a plum tree branch to make his mark and was thus named Iljimae. His main purpose was not so much to rob but to search for the owner of a specially read moredesigned sword which he saw as a child was used to kill his father, a loyal subject of the emperor. Eun Chae is a government official's daughter who despite her upbringing has a lot of empathy towards the poor. She met Iljimae by chance and couldn't help admiring him for what he stood for even though she had never seen his face.

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14 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Apr 26, 2015
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.5
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 10
'Iljimae' has left me sitting in a puddle of my own (hypothetical) tears. Although the first 6 episodes are a bit slow, the story soon picks up with a quick-fire, rapid pace that will leave your heart feeling as if it had been pulled out and stamped upon. It was truly a beautiful drama.

The story is similar to Robin Hood, but it's more sophisticated, powerful, moving and gritty than the traditional read more English folk tale. It is, without giving anything way, a revenge story. However, unlike most revenge stories, it has a heart. Our hero isn't some morally conflicted guy who can't tell right from wrong - in fact, the drama does well by clearly defining the hero's morals and making sure that he never strays too far away from them. It is beautiful to watch the story unfold and see our hero grow.

The father/son relationship was also incredibly moving. You can tell that Seo Dol has this completely unconditional love for Yong (despite him not being his biological son), and their relationship is so special and beautiful. I haven't seen a father/son relationship, like that, in K-Drama - ever. The impact Seo Dol and Yong have on each other just pulls on my heartstrings, and I am usually a person who remains highly unmoved by fiction.

I also have a lot of admiration for Yong's adoptive mother Dan-ee. She appears to be cold and indifferent towards both Seo Dol and Yong (and even her own biological son, Ja Dol/Shi Hoo), but that's just way of trying to protect herself if anything bad happened to either of them. You can tell that she truly loves them.

Overall, the story was very good; however, the romantic aspect of the plot really did weigh it down. I saw no true purpose, asides from being a romantic tool, for Eun Chae; yes, she was caring, kind and seemingly selfless (well, at least that is what she liked to think) but her character lacked development, depth and heart. Every time she would pop up on screen, the story would end up slowing down. She was an unnecessary character, in my opinion, and her romance with Iljimae was highly unconvincing. The second main girl - who actually had a more significant impact, and had a purpose in the story - had much more convincing chemistry with Yong and I would have preferred her to be his primary love interest. She was a brilliant 3-dimensional character - like Yoong - and she had true depth.

I didn't have a problem with Ja Do/Shi Hoo, though. I thought it was kind of weird how he loved Eun Chae (not a spoiler, this is pretty much obvious from the outset of the drama) because he believed her to be his sister, although she wasn't (again, not a spoiler), so that incest-but-not-incest thing kind of grossed me off him for a while. However, his moral conflicts and his struggles with his identity were quite touching, and although he didn't have the same impact as Yoong, I did sympathise with him a lot.

The drama does not suffer from bad acting at all. The cast fully suited their roles, and although Lee Jun-ki is partial to some overacting, it wasn't anything that detracted away from the drama. The actor who played Seo Dol was amazing - that guy put me through emotional highs and lows, and he had amazing chemistry with Lee Jun-ki. I actually felt like I was watching a father/son team whenever those two were on screen with each other.

The best performances, in my opinion, came from Lee Moon Shik, Lee Yong Ah, Lee Jun Ki and Kim Sung Ryung, Lee Won Jong (who was perfect as the delightfully self-serving and wicked, Byun Shik) and Park Shi Hoo. There wasn't really anything that I could call a 'bad performance' in the drama, and though I didn't like Eun Chae, Han Hyo Joo did what she could with such a bland character.

The only reason why this drama doesn't get a perfect 10 from me is because I felt that the romance did actually weigh things down quite a bit and whilst the ending was good, the slight openness of it did irk me off because I prefer more defined endings. (Especially after watching a drama for 20 hours!) However, it was a beautiful story with beautiful characters (and great action scenes) and I recommend it to all. It has heart, humour and depth and it has really perked an interest in the saeguk genre, for me.
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12 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Aug 8, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 7.0
If you are looking for a awesome drama to watch I recommend this one.
To me, I really liked this drama because the story made me feel like I was apart of the drama. There were so many moments of laughter, crying, angriness, etc. The acting was amazing, I really felt what they were feeling that it actually made me cry through the drama. It is amazing how a drama can give read more you so much emotions. And again this was my opinion, what I was feeling watching this drama. If you didn't like it and didn't feel the same then I guess that's that.
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Make a Recommendation More recs (18)Recommendations

1. Lee Jun Ki is the male lead of these two dramas so if you're a fan of him, you should check this out.
2. both are historical dramas and the characters of Jun Ki both have complicated background. In Iljimae, his dad is called the traitor of the country while in moon lovers, his mom hated him a lot. And family is the main key thing to his decision. Revenge.
Recommended by CookieProductions
Both dramas have both the main male leads as brothers but both characters don't know that they are brothers. Both the father and mentor of the main character for both dramas was played by the same actors. Finally, both dramas are about avenging the death of a father, but also becoming the true king that the people of Joseon deserve.
Recommended by copypup

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Comments (48)

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  • Reply
    Panda 7 days ago

    When is he gonna man up?

  • Reply
    Panda 7 days ago

    Joon gis eyes are hot as hell

  • Reply
    Elle 19 days ago - edited

    Which Historical Lee Jun Ki drama do I need to watch first?! Can't decide between Iljimae, Arang and the Magistrate and the Scholar that Walks the Night!!!!!! PLEASE HELP ME! My favorite Lee Jun Ki works are Time Between Dog and Wolf, Moon Lovers and The King and the Clown.

    • Reply
      rutuja 10 days ago

      you can start with iljimae and two weeks then scholar then arang

  • Reply
    Aquamaraqua Jan 5, 2017

    Simply one of the best K-Dramas out there. Not a dull moment in the 20 hours you spend your time watching it. I really do love myself some well defined endings and I still am quite upset about the lack of a really defined ending, but I can appreciate the beauty of it. I can say I did not expect a defined ending either, as the writers of this drama were bent on gripping the attention of viewers. It is upsetting they could not film more new material for the end of the last episode since they were short on time (literally filming the last episode the day it was supposed to air o_o), but alas life isn't perfect and this drama sure as hell shows it. I still love it though T_T

  • Reply
    maria minzy Dec 2, 2016

    legendas em português ,por favor.

  • Reply
    Nams Oct 4, 2016 - edited

    Tell me about the romance in this drama? Is it good? Bad? Unrealistic?
    And does it have happy ending as well?

    • Reply
      rizzamhaydera Jan 20, 2017
      Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    Miss-Addicted Sep 15, 2016 - edited

    I had high hopes for this drama the first time i tried watching it i dropped it from the first episode but months later i picked it up again and it was a lot better by the second episode now if you are like me i love action and historical dramas but i need a slight romance which i did not get!! there is a hint of it but not enough to be added to it's category to be honest i enjoyed everything beside the romance which pissed me off so much and something else which i can't mention because it's a spoiler those two thing ruined the drama for me! also Eun Chae's should have had more scenes to be honest and seeing her more in action because she is a strong character but the writers did not use that also we saw more of Bong Soon's annoying clingy character then her, i feel like i'm the only one who disliked Bong Soon's character ugh

  • Reply
    VishalIngle Sep 15, 2016
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    VishalIngle Sep 15, 2016 - edited

    i'm at 6th episode but still don't get why is it a high rated drama?why do people like it so much?

  • Reply
    cvparadise Sep 14, 2016

    a little bit more than 4 years ago I binge watched this show. It was so worth it.
    Tho they could have invested a little bit more in the romance, it was lacking a lot.

  • Reply
    cvparadise Sep 14, 2016

    a little bit more than 4 years ago I binge watched this show. It was so worth it.
    Tho they could have invested a little bit more in the romance, it was lacking a lot.

  • Reply
    cvparadise Sep 14, 2016

    a little bit more than 4 years ago I binge watched this show. It was so worth it.
    Tho they could have invested a little bit more in the romance, it was lacking a lot.

  • Reply
    Andro Sep 12, 2016

    One of the best drama.
    I fall in love with Joon Gi with this awesome drama.

  • Reply
    NHK95 Apr 7, 2016 - edited

    it was awesome! the romance felt like it had potential but ended up lacking due to nothing really happening. i would love for there to be a season 2 but i doubt at this point that it would be a thing. :(
    i seriously want a season 2! ugh!!!

  • Reply
    JayRandom Mar 29, 2016 - edited

    Call me a boring person, I love my comedy here and there, but it just took away from this drama.

    Due to the first few episodes, I was expecting something more like Bridal Mask and this made me very excited. Instead, I got a bunch of comedy and a lackluster ending. Yong is a funny guy but that doesn't necessarily mean the dialogues need to be funny all the time, there's a difference between humor from one guy and outright comedic scenes. If there was slightly more comedy than what was presented, it should be labelled as a comedy.

    The setup was all there, it had the potential to be as good or better than bridal mask. or even become a masterpiece. I also did not enjoy bridal mask's 2nd half as much as the first half, but Iljimae took it to the next level. The plot was messy in the 2nd half, characters (especially villains) were often too simple/one-dimensional. I nearly cried during the first half, but the 2nd half did nothing to live up to that. The deaths didn't seem as impactful anymore near the end. I would rather see the drama go hardcore on the revenge aspect, but it almost seemed like the writers/directors just wanted to have fun with it, and give a more lighthearted, and simpler show to the audience near the end.

    Another remark I had was that Iljimae was probably bipolar, I'm not sure if this was intentional or bad scripts made him seem that way but his emotions change too abruptly. Sometimes he is acting, either to hide his emotions from family members or enemies, but other times, it just seems absurd that he could act that way given his situation. He's also not very credible, gaining so much skill in such a short period of time, and the plot armor..

    Note that I am speaking relative to my expectations of it, I still found it to be very good overall.

    • Reply
      BeautifulSwan Sep 7, 2016

      iljimae was made about 8 years ago hahaha .. so cannot really compare to other current drama


  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Episodes:

  • Aired:

    May 21, 2008 to Jul 24, 2008
  • Network:

  • Duration:

    1 hr. 3 min.


  • Score:

    8.5 (scored by 5,126 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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