Hangul: 푸른 바다의 전설
Original Air Date: November 2016 – January 2017
Plot: Inspired by a Joseon legend, this drama tells the story of a con artist and a mermaid who fall in love
I really really wanted to like this drama, but it fell short of my expectations. The beginning vibes felt like a mash up between Leonardo di Caprio’s Catch Me If You Can, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the mega Kdrama blockbuster My Love from the Star. And maybe that’s why the drama didn’t hit right for me, it could not live up to those three shows that I absolutely loved.
Part of the reason why My Love from the Star and Legend of the Blue Sea feel so similar is the writer is the same in both. The two plot lines are almost identical. My Love from the Star is about an alien stuck on earth for 500 years and falls in love with a human who happens to be the reincarnation of his first love. It goes back and forth between the Joseon Dynasty and modern times to tell the story. Meanwhile, Legend of the Blue Sea tells the story of a mermaid falling in love with a human who happens to be the reincarnation of her first love. It goes back and forth between Joseon Dynasty and modern times to tell the story. The 500 year old past lives destiny trope doesn’t necessarily bother me in either drama. It’s just that they felt so similar. With the same writers, producers and lead actress, it’s hard not to see parallels and compare the two. However, Legend of the Blue Sea felt like it had a lower production budget. A lot of the Joseon and water scenes looked too fake and staged in a studio. I also thought her mermaid costume really looked like a Halloween costume. With the A list cast, I thought a little more effort would go into the production. My Love from the Star had such a quality feel from the costumes, the set design and cinematography.
The Legend of the Blue Sea story laid out well with the beginning of every episode flashing back to the Joseon past and sharing a little bit more of what happened to them in every episode. The slow reveal helped you stay with the drama to learn more and more. In present times, Lee Min Ho plays the slick and cunning Heo Joon Jae. His character is what gave me the Catch Me if You Can vibes of Leonardo di Caprio. Both are handsome con man who are quick with their words and hands and cunning enough to get away with some impossible cons. The role was not a stretch from previous Lee Min Ho dramas and his acting was similar to what we have seen before. In other words, he tends to get type casted into the same handsome, smart but a bit of an ass turned softy/romantic male lead. He has that character down, I do hope that he expands his choices of roles in the future to show us some acting range.
What I struggled with the most in this drama is Jun Ji Hyun’s portrayal of the mermaid. I loved her in My Love from the Star, where she was a little over the top and naïve but her comedic moments were so well timed and her character had this endearing quality. So, it threw me off to see remnants of that character in the mermaid. Instead of finding her cute or endearing, I found myself cringing. I also thought the way she portrayed (or was asked to portray) the mermaid was too slapstick comical and over the top. It bothered me how naïve and ridiculous the humor was of her trying to figure out the human world in the first 5-6 episodes. Although it worked for Ariel in The Little Mermaid to think a fork was a dinglehopper and sing an amazing song about the gadgets and gizmos of the human world, it just didn’t play right for me in this drama. I do wonder if I didn’t see My Love from the Star first or wasn’t a fan of The Little Mermaid, if I could have embraced her character a little better.
Legend of the Blue Sea was a longer drama at 20 episodes instead of 16. I thought once the characters settled in around episode 5-6 and Ji Hyun’s mermaid was a little more acclimated to the human world, the drama faired a little better for me. There were some cute and heartfelt moments with our lead pair and some side characters. I enjoyed the cameo by Jo Jung Suk in Episode 7 and 8! I was satisfied with this drama enough by the end and it all wrapped up well. But it didn’t leave any lingering feelings of excitement or wanting to rewatch it. In fact, I quickly filed it away and forgot about it. There really are a lot better dramas to watch than this one.
Final Opinion: If you got nothing else to watch.