Tale of the Nine-Tailed (2020) poster
Your Rating: 0/10
Ratings: 8.4/10 from 48,054 users
# of Watchers: 102,454
Reviews: 218 users
Ranked #890
Popularity #45
Watchers 48,054

The mythical nine-tailed fox, or gumiho, Lee Yeon had to settle in the city many centuries ago. Able to transform into human form, he eradicates supernatural beings that threaten the mortal world. His real aim is to find the reincarnation of his lost first love. The talented television producer Nam Ji Ah works on a show that features urban myths. In the past, her parents were involved in a mysterious car accident and disappeared, and she suspects that Lee Yeon might be connected with this accident. The half-brother to Lee Yeon is the captivating Lee Rang. Despite being half-human himself, he harbors a deep-seated contempt for all people. For sport, he will unleash his seductive prowess upon his human-du-jour by promising to grant them their wishes, only to trick them into paying a hefty price for their earthly desires. (Source: Lee Cox at MyDramaList) Edit Translation

  • English
  • 中文(台灣)
  • Arabic
  • Русский
  • Country: South Korea
  • Type: Drama
  • Episodes: 16
  • Aired: Oct 7, 2020 - Dec 3, 2020
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Original Network: tvN
  • Duration: 1 hr. 10 min.
  • Score: 8.4 (scored by 48,054 users)
  • Ranked: #890
  • Popularity: #45
  • Content Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older

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Cast & Credits


266 people found this review helpful
Dec 3, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 81
Overall 7.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 7.5
This review may contain spoilers

That ending was a... choice

There's a lot to be said about this wonderful yet somehow disappointing take on gumiho and Korean lore, and having just finished it I find that I have surprisingly complicated feelings for something that, in the beginning, I was confident that I would end up either loving or hating it.

I feel a bit bitter.

The drama's strengths lie in its production, its cast, and some of its characters. Some, not all. The brothers Lee Yeon and Lee Rang were hands down the most well thought out part of the story as both characters had a lot of depth to them, and their actors had a lot of chemistry on set. From the very beginning, LR's grudge is made clear and we're given context to their very strained relationship. As the story leaves more pieces for us to put together, we come to understand his character a lot more. Better yet, their relationship and LR's character as a whole have by far the most growth out of the whole cast. Even, I as someone who didn't care for LR in early episodes, grew to appreciate his role in the story.

The rest of the cast, for the most part, was a compliment to their chemistry. Ki Yoo Ri and Gu Shin Ju did a fantastic job portraying the slow-developing second couple and, honestly, their chemistry was a lot more compelling than the main pair. They're fun, they're cute, and the more you see them together, the better they look together. The Gatekeeper couple was such a treat, too, in a different way. Watching them fight and bicker and then, eventually, come together again, was so nice. For me, the main problem and the reason I was never 100% onboard was Nam Ji Ah's character. I found her very likable and refreshing in the first few episodes but that started to taper off around episode 4 or 5 where I started to find her grating. The actress's acting was passable, but a lot of times it didn't feel genuine. Her motivation was clear in the beginning - to find her parents - but as soon as they were back, the story forgot about them unless it needed a hostage or a funny little couple scene between NJA and LY. It felt a little strange. Then, this character who in the beginning we were shown was strong-willed, motivated, and could take care of herself was now in constant need of rescuing. And I mean constant. She was practically helpless throughout most of the story. In episode 13 she even fell victim to the 'woman fainting because stress' trope. There were also many scenes where she had to 'play the villain' so to speak and act as Imugi, which... was a choice. She didn't make for a great villain. The acting was cheesy and over-the-top, which I came to expect from other aspects of the show like the dialogue (which was absolutely cringy in some spots) but when you have a villain you want to look threatening, that's not a very good sign. I have more gripes with her character at the ending, too. A lot more.

Before I move on, Lee Tae Ri was an odd choice to play the villain. It's not that he's a bad actor, but he doesn't really have a threatening or large presence. He made Imugi's level of threat seem kinda silly, honestly, so I never felt like there was any real tension when he was on screen.

The plot... let's be honest, it's a hot mess. It's coherent enough to understand and enjoy, simple enough that you've seen this story a thousand and one times already, but if you think about it too long, it starts to fall apart. Just take the very first scene where NJA's parents go missing. We understand that attack to have been orchestrated by Imugi's minion KHR, but who was it that actually attacked them? Who was it that LY saved NJA from that night? They were shapeshifters, we can assume maybe they were foxes like the others? But why did they do it? Why did they listen to KHR? Better yet, what was the point of taking NJA's parents to begin with? Was it just to use them as leverage years later? That seems a bit silly - they could have taken them at any point after Imugi was revived to the same effect. With Imugi's illusions we've seen that he can get whatever he wants whenever he wants it. It just feels unnecessary. I loved the scene itself and it was a great introduction, but there wasn't much reason for it other than giving NJA a flimsy character set-up. In fact, if the parents had just been killed that night I probably wouldn't have much to say about it - it could have been a harsh introduction into the world we were about to step into. The problem is really the fact that it ties back to the main villain.

There are numerous other examples of the show taking weird turns like that or having just badly written scenes, but if I tried to write them all out we'd be here forever. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we never got closure on why NJA's parents visited that island where the Imugi ritual was performed, did we? Why did they bring back her parents if they were going to practically forget about them immediately after? The girl gets to see her mom and dad who she knew were likely dead after so many years and there's a short few scenes about them reuniting and then it's like they were never gone in the first place. They never even get an explanation for where they were or why they were there all that time. Anyway. My point is that there are a lot of holes in the story, and even more bad choices. It didn't make me hate the show but as I saw more of them, I started to realize that this wasn't the drama I hoped it would be.

Let's skip the tedious middle of the story and skip to the ending. A lot of the build-up was instead filled with mushy, cheesy scenes between LY and NJA, the couple with the least amount of chemistry in the story. Then our climax hits and it goes exactly how everyone expects - almost. Going into the last 2 eps, I expected LR to die instead of LY. You know, that old 'redemption in death' trope again. I accepted it. But then LY went through with his initial plan and there was crying and tears and LR held his wine bottle like it was a newborn baby and... that was it. I hoped. To be honest, I was fine with that. LY dying, NJA learning to move on, and their love ending on a bittersweet note might have had me applauding the show for not giving us a candyfloss ending. My favourite moments in the whole drama were seeing LR interacting with his newfound family, upset and lonely over the loss of his brother but finally, after so long, finding happiness in the company of others. He didn't have his brother, but he had a family.

And then they made him a damn martyr and had him sacrifice himself for his damn brother. They gave their most well-developed character a cheap ending. If he had died fighting Imugi, I would have been fine with that. If he died because his time was up (they alluded to him being at the end of his lifespan several times and then they, I don't know, forgot about it? Decided they didn't care?) then I wouldn't even have been upset. But instead, they waited until he had his happiest moment and took it all away, not even giving him a proper goodbye. What message does that really send us? He only lost everything once he grew as a character and became a better person. And I'm not saying that his growth nullifies all the terrible shit he's done in the past - it doesn't, he's a murderer and the fact that he's docile at the end of it doesn't change that - but it's only once he started on a better path that he meets his end, and I'm not sure I can get on board with that.

To me, NJA dying would have made sense. No, not there, I don't think anyone should have sacrificed their lives for LY to come back regardless of who it was. But her sacrificing herself earlier on would have made sense. The Gatekeeper was right - she was the reason so many people were dying, even if it wasn't directly her fault. While I can understand LY's desperation to not have history repeat itself, even if they weren't characters that we saw on screen, a lot of people died in the story. An insane amount, even. Saving her while all of them were dying was in fact pretty selfish of the both of them. A lot of heartache from the characters could have been avoided that way, too. Would it have been a very satisfying ending? Not sure. But what we have isn't really satisfying, either.

I did enjoy some of the scenes after LY returned, but ultimately, I don't think they were needed. Maybe I'm just bitter. If I based my rating solely on the ending, it probably would have been a 6. But I can't ignore the fact that I did enjoy the early episodes, and later on I enjoyed most characters outside of Imugi and NJA. It was a cringy, sappy journey that a part of me regrets going on, while another part is happy to have at least had the journey, even if it led down a road not worth travelling.

-LY is supposed to be reincarnated except is brought back as himself but human. An adult. How does that make sense? Why did they not explain that?
-LR being reincarnated as a 10-year-old boy... when he died a few months ago? Does that make sense? No. Nothing does, apparently.
-That very end - so is he not a human after all? Is he lying? I get that maybe he can still use his special sword umbrella but why did his eyes change? Is he still a fox? WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THAT?

I'm angry all over again.

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45 people found this review helpful
Dec 28, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

Without beating around the bush, The Tale of Gumiho ( or the Nine Tailed Fox) ‘s beginning did offer the criteria of being a brilliant fantasy show ; a stellar cast, fairly strong scriptwriting from episode one and of course the intriguing plot scenario of a lovelorn nine-tailed fox ( Lee Dong Wook) desperately yearning to be human again and overcoming the emotional scars of his past.

The Tale of Gumiho does certainly have one gift for drama watchers by offering us a stellar cast line-up. Finally seeing Lee Dong Wook reprise a fantasy role again had to be an undeniable selling- point for most drama watchers.

In place of wearing a prim and proper black hat as a certain Grim Reaper, however, Dong Wook steps into his new character, Lee Yeon, by sporting freshly dyed auburn red hair and brightly coloured suits as part of his foxy persona. There is no denying the fact that Dong Wook is undeniably Dong Wook in his performance - with a mixture of a sarcasm , comical wit and angst-driven ambiance surrounding his performance as Lee Yeon, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this mysterious trickster instead. In a similar manner to Dong Wook, Jo Bo- ah was stunningly brilliant as the female lead, Nam Ji- ah through her heart-driven wit and capability to portray a female lead with rationality and intelligence in the show .

Yet sadly, however, as far as the scriptwriting is concerned both characters undeniably fall short of expectations through how they are dealt with after the opening of the drama. Without revealing too much it’s fair to say that although both characters did respectfully have emotional attachment to viewers through their experiences, some of the cliches that the scriptwriters had included just didn’t live up to expectations for these characters to be more than plot devices. ( Ji- ah’s rationality and intelligence as a lead is seemingly flung out the window by the halfway point of the drama, our main antagonist, Imoogi played mostly by Lee Tae- Ri has little intrigue for
watchers over his motives whereas characters such as the Snail Bride, Taluipa and Hyun Eui-ong who should’ve have had some of the most intriguing involvement in the storyline, were simply played for comical effect instead). By the ending of this drama there was little development or actual intrigue around most of these characters.

On the other hand, perhaps the one thing ( alongside the fairly good OST ) which most certainly can be praised in regards to one element of the scriptwriting, is how they dealt with Kim Bum’s brilliantly sardonic and emotionally complex portrayal as the antagonist- antihero role , Lee Rang.Of course, there is no denying that Rang did step often beyond the points of morality in the drama even from episode one, yet revelations of Lee Rang’s complicated past and his partially morally-guided actions throughout the drama such as saving his faithful sidekick Yu-ri ( Kim Yong Ji) from animal abuse in a zoo, a puppy from being tortured by a group of teenage thugs and Kim Soo oh ( Jung Si yul) from child abuse, adds more intricacy to him simply being labelled as an “ evil” or “ twisted” character.

Surprisingly, Kim Yong Ji’s performance as Yu- ri , also had better characterisation than the majority our main leads as well. As a character, Yu- ri appears at first as somewhat detestable by her animalistic desires to eat humans and to deceive a married couple behind the truth that their daughter is dead. Yet as Rang reveals more about Yu-ri’s past, it soon becomes apparent through her growing relationship with the veterinarian Shin Joo ( Hwang Hee) that Yu-ri is again not entirely an evil character, but simply doing what she must in order to survive. It is only a shame that whilst Yu- ri undeniably had a good character progression by the ending of the show, the circumstances of Lee Rang, Lee Yeon and Ji-ah felt lacklustre in comparison. It wasn’t that the ending of the drama wasn’t good, however, the means in which the scriptwriters had got us to this ending felt rushed and lacking in both emotional investment and intrigue for watchers.

Overall Tale of Gumiho was a fairly enjoyable show, however, it was severely flawed by character progression of our main leads as well as their relationship, and the overall ending deliverance of the drama. Perhaps the two saving graces of the drama were the casting choices and evidently Kim Bum’s performance as Lee Rang due to being a complicated and intriguing antagonist up until the ending , where sadly his final character twist and progression felt too rushed. Whilst Tale of Gumiho is worth a watch, don’t watch it if you’re looking for a masterpiece, as there are certainly better fantasy dramas out there.

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  • Drama: Tale of the Nine-Tailed
  • Country: South Korea
  • Episodes: 16
  • Aired: Oct 7, 2020 - Dec 3, 2020
  • Aired On: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Original Network: tvN
  • Duration: 1 hr. 10 min.
  • Content Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older


  • Score: 8.4 (scored by 48,054 users)
  • Ranked: #890
  • Popularity: #45
  • Watchers: 102,454

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