One of the unique things about storytelling in any medium is that it can also be a powerful venue and springboard to talk and delve into issues and topics that are important and serious but are too uncomfortable to normally talk about. While darker and more serious topics and issues have been cropping up in Korean dramas recently, it’s definitely a feat if it the drama was not only able to effectively talk about the issue or topic, without sacrificing the story or the performances of the actors themselves. MBC’s “Children of Nobody”/”Red Moon Blue Sun” is one such drama as it not only tackled the difficult subject of child abuse and childhood traumas, but it was a proper thriller in its own right that kept you on the edge of your seat all the way until the end, and great performances from a fully loaded cast that delivered in spades. In fact, even if the 2019 drama season has just started, this definitely just might make it and might end up staying in my top ten list for the year.
“Children of Nobody”/”Red Moon Blue Sun” aired from November 21, 2018 to January 16, 2019 with thirty two half hour episodes on Wednesdays and Thursdays on MBC. It was directed by Choi Jung Kyu (“Triangle”, “Two Weeks”) and was written by Do Hyun Jung (“The Village: Achiara’s Secret”, “Que Sera Sera”, “Can Love Become Money”).
The drama mostly centers around Cha Woo Kyung (Kim Sun Ah), a child psychologist whose seemingly perfect life is overturned after a tragic accident occurs. She ends up running into Detective Kang Ji Hyun (Lee Yi Kyung) and his partner, Jun Soo Young (Nam Gyu Ri), who are investigating a set of mysterious homicides that involve different forms of child abuse, where lines of poems are left behind as clues, and who are all somehow connected as well to Woo Kyung. They also run into a mysterious young man named Lee Eun Ho (VIXX’s N or Cha Hak Yeon), who works at the center where Woo Kyung works. As the drama progresses, Woo Kyung also discovers that not everything in her past is what it seems, and works to discover the truth about her past.
This drama was the very definition of a great psychological thriller, as every single element in the drama kept you guessing and kept you at the edge of your seat all the way until the end.
The subject matter that this drama had was a difficult and serious one indeed, and I do believe that they were able to highlight these important yet issues all the way until the end. These issues included child neglect;child abuse; and how childhood traumas, no matter how small or series in gravity it was, does somehow affect and shape a person.
While the show highlighted the freedom of choosing right over wrong, it showed us all the shades of gray, as doing the right thing by law and calling it a win sometimes feels hollow and frustrating.
Of course, all of these things were seen and addressed with our four main characters, who were written well.
There have been some complaints about how some characters didn’t get much backstory, or how some major players in the latter half didn’t get developed well. However, I think that the writer showed us enough that was relevant to the main story, and that in actuality, those two major players later on were actually set up well from the get go.
Veteran actress Kim Sun Ah (“City Hall”, “My Name is Kim Sam Soon”, “Scent of A Woman”, “Woman of Dignity”, “Should We Kiss First”) is nothing short of phenomenal in this drama. She embodied this character all the way to the character’s physicality, as she carried herself with the air of a scared child at times, and as someone whose body is literally crying out in pain.
Lee Yi Kyung has been having a great drama year, and the projects he’s had has showcased his range, from comedy all the way to serious and emotional roles. It is here, however, that he fully cemented that he is definitely a versatile actor that we should be expecting more out of in the future.
I haven’t really seen Nam Gyu Ri in anything yet, but from what I see here, she is definitely another one to look out for. Not only is her acting grounded, but there is so much nuance that she brings to the character even if her backstory isn’t fully shown to us.
However, the one that really shone that brightest was VIXX’s N or Cha Hak Yeon. This is the first time that he’s one of the main characters in a show, and he proves his worth as he’s able not only to hold his against up and coming stars like Lee Yi Kyung, but veterans such as Kim Sun Ah as well. Having this as his last major drama before his military hiatus was a smart move, and I can’t wait to his potential burst into full bloom when he returns.
“Children of Nobody”/”Red Moon Blue Sun” is a fantastic psychological thriller that tackles the difficult subjects of child abuse and neglect and how childhood traumas shape us, with a tight story, and great performances that will leave a lasting impression on you for days. I’m glad that I chose this one as my first for the (2018 to) 2019 drama season!
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers! Also, as I loved this drama, expect a long read, as I have a LOT to say about this one.
Writing about this subject is definitely difficult, and being involved in this project was probably a very emotional process for everyone, from the creative team, to the secondary characters, all the way to the main characters. For us, the viewers, this drama serves to remind us to be the best we can, but also reminds us that even the best of us can, even without meaning to, cause harm to ourselves, others, and the innocent, with the various cases of varying degrees that were presented to us.
However, it also shows us that we do have the power of choosing the right thing, even though doing the right thing may seem empty and hollow at times. In fact, the drama doesn’t end with a happy note at all, but a rather melancholy one, which does reflect our actual sad reality.
For me, the theme of childhood experiences and trauma resonated deeply with me. I’ve experienced some unpleasantness in my life, and I think that most Asian children who have old school or Baby Boomer parents have experienced some sort of physical punishment in the past. It may not have gone up to the levels of actual abuse, but that also does somehow stick with you until you grow up.
Earlier, I mentioned that some people have complained about the lack of backstory and development of some characters. For Ji Hyeon as Soo Young, i believe that they gave us enough that was relevant to the main story, and their acting also gave us much more. With regards to the Chairman, things were actually being set up as soon as we met Eun Ho, and came into full focus just at the right time. Also, with our actual main villain, Red Cry or Dr. Yoon Tae Joo (Joo Suk Tae), all of his appearances on screen did set this up well. In fact, at a certain point, when I started entertaining the idea that he might be Red Cry before the show told us that he was Red Cry, I looked back at all his other appearances, and everything started making sense, especially as to why he looked after the cases of the boy Si Wan and Woo Kyung with care.
This drama was definitely Woo Kyung’s story as she was connected to all of these cases and it also helped her uncover her own childhood trauma. We also saw her struggle with her rage and frustration against those who hurt children, but at the same time, we saw how she was able to have an anchor, oddly enough, in her dead little sister, who was appearing to her in hallucinations. Her late sister became her conscience in a way, and was the thing that kept her in check from going overboard. She also believes in the possibility of change and growth, but, of course, it depends on the case. For example, her step-mother is a very different case from Ha Na’s father. She also showed a lot of strength in the fact that while she will never forgive her step-mother, she will grin and bear it for her own child.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Eun Ho and his older brother, whom we discover later is Yoon Tae Joo. Eun Ho spent his childhood being both physically and sexually abused by his adoptive family, and specifically, the Chairman of Hanul Center. Eun Ho just kept everything inside and bore it until he finally remembered the exact cause of his trauma. That anger and pain, egged on by his older brother, caused him to become the vigilante that he was. Tae Joo, on the other hand, did things fueled by the anger and the guilt he had as he was also glad that it wasn’t him. That anger caused him to create the Red Cry persona.
Eun Ho was the one that did the actual killing most of the time, especially as he believed that he saw himself in the children involved in the cases, and as he believed that he was saving them. Yet, I can’t help but think that with the right treatment and a better mentor, he could have turned out like Woo Kyung instead.
Ji Hyeon never really liked children. I think that this stemmed from experiencing the usual physical punishments inflicted by Asian parents, and his fear that he wouldn’t be a good parent. In fact, he also mentions that he always saw children as an extra responsibility. However, thanks to meeting Ha Na, he was able to see how children are blessings, and finally opened up to the possibility of having one in the future.
I liked that the show also showed how Ji Hyeon also got disappointed by the legal system in Ha Na’s case, but just like Woo Kyung, he would never murder anyone even if they deserved it because he knows that he has no right to do so either.
Soo Young’s childhood was marked by physical abuse as her step older brother beat her up, with her not saying anything or complaining as she was told by her mother not to do so in order to keep the peace within the family. Because of this, she doesn’t trust a lot of people, is physical when she lashes out,beats up any man who tries to do anything to her, and is very perceptive when it comes to reading body language. She also ended up being more of a lone wolf. However, by the end of the drama, she discovers a more reliable older brother in Ji Hyeon who showed that he does have her back, and even told her to talk to him if needed.
This drama was full of shades of grays, as sometimes there were moments in which I really wanted Red Cry to kill off these abusive parents, even though it’s wrong; and got frustrated when the law couldn’t do anything to help these children. However, I’m glad that Ji Hyeon and Woo Kyung both stated why they wouldn’t become like Red Cry- because they both know that they also have no right to judge others as they are not perfect as well.
“Children of Nobody”/”Red Moon Blue Sun” is a powerful drama packed with powerful performances, and difficult topics that you will end up thinking about in the end, and a great psychological thriller from start to finish.
Have you seen this drama? What did you like or not like about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: MBC