Overall Rating: A- (this is hard to rate tbh)
Subtitles: The subtitles on the DVD I bought were top notch–I only noticed a few typos here and there and otherwise they were fluent and perfectly timed and consistent.
Brief Synopsis: After a group of elite soldiers are killed by their own government on the way back from a dangerous mission, the lone survivor kidnaps his friend’s baby and raises him to exact revenge on the men responsible for the mass murder. But the survivor and the boy he raises may not always see eye to eye on how to go about bringing the perpetrators to justice. City Hunter is not currently licensed in the US but you can buy it on DVD places like Amazon. I bought this version and was a big fan.
**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**
Ending Type: The overall story arc ended in a bittersweet way–satisfying, but definitely bittersweet. The romance ended in kind of a confusing way? I think we are supposed to assume happy ending but I don’t enjoy being made to assume things.
Characters: Shoutout to this show’s many and rich side characters. What a good and interesting group, from Yun Seong’s work buddies to Na Na’s work partner to the President’s daughter to the vet girl to Uncle Bad Hair to Jin Pyo’s henchman to the whole and varied cast of bad guys to the President himself and also the rest of his staff and security guards. There were a lot of people packed into this drama and I can’t talk about them all! (Well I could but I am too lazy too, honestly).
Our main character is Lee Yun Seong (Lee Min Ho) in a hero role straight out of a Manga (literally). Kidnapped as a baby and raised by an emotionally distant father figure in the middle of a drug ring in Thailand, Yun Seong somehow manages to be a charming and warm and loving kid whose instinct is to protect people and who feels the loss of the people he cares about deeply. As an adult back in Korea, ready to exact revenge for his father’s murder, he’s an arrogant jerk with a secret heart of gold (classic Lee Min Ho). To be fair this character had a lot of good reasons for being an arrogant jerk–he was very purposefully trying to distance himself from anyone getting close to him because he knew what he was doing couldn’t end happily. I will say that his character was a blast to watch and easy to cheer for and had a nice emotional range, and I adore Lee Min Ho, but the “I’m a jerk to be a jerk” parts were a little hard for me to watch. I think I may be over this particular character trope, as it were.
Kim Na Na (Park Min Young), on the other hand, was a true delight. One of the cutest characters I’ve ever seen and an absolute delight to behold in pretty much all situations. She did suffer from the classic K Drama “we gave a girl action powers but also need her to be in danger all the time” thing which was frustrating to me. She was smart and determined and extremely capable and I did not love that she got sidelined the entire show. There was a brief moment when it seemed like she would be treated like a partner but it passed quickly and I found that disappointing. Otherwise I found everything about her to be wonderful, and her incredible determination and optimism despite what had happened to her and the fact that everyone and everything was against her was awesome.
Kim Young Joo (Lee Joon Hyuk) was a really interesting foil/secondary hero character. He was a noble prosecutor always seeking justice, even if he sometimes did so with a bit too much zeal. We didn’t get a whole lot of personal stuff from him, but I loved that he was around because he was in this weird place in the story where he is on the right side doing the right thing for the right reasons but you also have to cheer against him a lot because he is technically against the main character. I did like the journey he went on in his relationship to Yun Seong/City Hunter and the way he had to reconcile with his father and both of their pasts. Overall a great and interesting character and I was real sad when he died.
Lee Jin Pyo (Kim Sang Joon) was also a fascinating anti-hero/villain character because like, he was a bad dude. You could understand his motivations but there was no question this dude was A Villain. However, his personal connection to Yun Seong, and Yun Seong’s refusal to actually take him down, made him a really interesting adversary. Especially since the people he wanted to take down were Super Bad People (up until the President at the end) and like yeah we can all agree that murder is bad but it’s hard to be too mad at a guy for wanting to kill the guys who killed all his friends and then proceeded to engage in extreme corruption and widespread criminal activity that hurt like, a whole lot of people. I felt his final choice, to declare himself City Hunter and be killed in that desperate final act of protecting Yun Seong was poetic and wonderful and very fitting for his character.
Relationships: Let’s start with Yun Seong and his father figures. His whole relationship with Jin Pyo is confusing and messed up–Jin Pyo steals him from his mom as a baby and raises him in the middle of a dangerous drug ring and provides no affection at all. However he does sacrifice his own leg to save Yun Seong and the only time he ever seems concerned about another person or hesitates to pull the trigger is when it concerns his son. Yun Seong had a rough go of it as he uncovered lie after lie that his father had told him and constantly had to be protecting the people he loved from the man who was supposed to be his father. The whole show was building up to their final confrontation and boy was it emotionally charged. ESPECIALLY because it was over the President, who early on becomes a sort of father figure for Yun Seong and turns out to be *gasp* his real actual biological father. When Jin Pyo targets The President you know it will be the final straw for Yun Seong, and I really thought that whole moment was handled so well, especially since it quickly became just about Jin Pyo and Yun Seong and all of the crap that was between them, both good and bad. Jin Pyo basically sacrificing himself to clear Yun Seong’s name and dying as he reached for his son was really powerful and the perfect ending to this sort of bitter and twisted arc.
Ah yes, The Romance. I will say Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young had GREAT chemistry and I loved their energy together. They had a lot of cute moments, too, and I was a big fan of that brief period of time where Kim Na Na was living with Yun Seong and his uncle and working with them. Quality content, many feels. I was not, however, a big fan of the whole “I am a jerk to you always but secretly I love you and you love me so it’s all OK” storyline that just… doesn’t do anything for me. I also was not a fan of the way the story forced them apart in the final third for no reason other than to make us sad and make us want it all to be over so they could be together. It really didn’t make sense considering how well they worked together and the fact that all the danger Kim Na Na could face because of Yun Seong was already realized and in full swing so it didn’t even work as a protection thing, it just felt very forced. I didn’t love it, and I really didn’t love how the only resolution we get is the two of them standing in a room looking at each other. Overall not very satisfying which was upsetting considering how much set up it had.
High Points: The action and investigation and confrontation scenes were, across the board, super solid. Most of the character interactions were a true delight. I was a big, big fan of all of the discussions this show brought up about power and morality and how to choose the right path.
Low Points: The romance honestly? I am a romance junkie, that’s why I love K Dramas so dang much, and I am rarely let down. I felt let down by this though.
Final comments: First, I am a big fan of Lee Min Ho and I know I tend to enjoy his stuff more than I maybe should (but I’m with about half the world on this so I feel 0% bad about it). Second, this took FOREVER for me to watch because I watched it with my husband who does not consume K Dramas as voraciously as I do. I have spent a lot of time wondering if the fact that I sometimes went weeks between episodes dampened my enjoyment of this one–I really like to be immersed and it’s hard to feel immersed when you watch several entire shows between each episode of another. That is not to say that I did not enjoy this because I certainly loved it, but I walked away without the usual strong excitement I get after a drama I enjoy and I am pretty sure that the way I watched this was a big part of it. As always I encourage binge watching K Dramas, or if you must watch them live watch them two eps a week as intended. That said, City Hunter is fun an entertaining and packs some really good emotional punches. While I wasn’t overly sold on the romance I thought both leads were exciting to watch and lovable (in their own ways) and while it was fun and filled with action and comedy it also addressed some pretty serious issues and made you think, and that’s what makes a good drama imho.