Chuno (The Slave Hunters)

Welcome to the world of Chuno (The Slave Hunters). It’s a world that you enter into rather than just sitting and watching a drama. You get engrossed in their world. It’s a painful world, full of disappointment and anguish. Not an ideal world. A world where everything can change at the drop of a hat. One minute noble, next minute slave – One minute slave, next minute noble, then boom! Dead. Noble to slave hunter – Happiness to sorrow. This is a cruel world, but my heart was captured by it. It was captured in a way that I could imagine myself a part of this world, as cruel as it is. It’s not often that a drama truly haunts me afterwards – Where the remnant memories of what I witness follow me and truly affect me. Truthfully, my heart was captured by Dae-gil, the Slave Hunter. The beauty and pain of his character is unparallelled with anything else I’ve ever seen. This drama is brilliant with impeccable acting, amazing cinematography and complex characters. A must watch for anyone who has the courage to be taken on a journey of the Slave Hunters. Once you start, there’s not turning back. You must see it through until the end. I would be very shocked to hear if you didn’t sob.

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Sypnopsis: Lee Dae-Gil (played by Jang Hyuk) was from a good family and was in love with his family’s slave named Un-nyun (played by Lee Dae-Ha). He wanted to marry her, but nobles cannot marry their slaves. She was punished and as a result her brother burned down Dae-gil’s house and both his parents died. Un-nyun thought that Dae-gil died in the fire, but he did not. Dae-gil lost everything. He clung onto his love for Un-nyun and has been searching for her for ten years. During this time, he has become a Slave Hunter (Chuno) returning slaves to their Master’s for survival and in hope that he will be able to find her.

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I’ll be honest, I was very anxious about writing this review to the point where I wondered if I should even bother. This drama was so moving, so memorable that I didn’t think I would be able to capture it’s true essence in a mere post. So here I am, writing this review, close to tears, not sure at all how to even do this drama justice with a review. In fact, I can’t do it justice. There’s no possible way I can. I felt like I was given the privilege to enter a world that I would never normally have the opportunity to experience. Normally I can finish dramas I enjoy in three or four days. This one took me quite a bit longer than my usual marathon run. It’s because it felt so real, so sad and so painful to watch. I really had to pace myself because I’m such an emotional TV watcher. I suspected this drama was going to be really sad from the beginning. Well, my suspicions were right, but I don’t regret it. It was worth it.

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Things that make this drama so Epic

  • The Intro with the stylized images
  • The OST – I associate the songs with certain scenes now
  • The Cinematography – Seriously breath taking
  • Individual character development and unique back stories
  • Crazy cool action scenes – I wish I could move like that!
  • Lot’s and lots of sexy, sexy abs – Mmmmm choco abs!
  • Dae-gil

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**Warning – Spoilers ahead**

Normally I like to try to write reviews that are vague enough that you don’t really get too many spoilers if you haven’t seen the drama. I’m afraid a spoiler free review will not work for this drama. There’s just too much to talk about. I’m not going to break down my review in order of events, so if you haven’t seen this you may want to read with extreme caution because some very big spoilers may be lurking in these words. I would like to focus more on individual characters and relationships rather than how things unfolded specifically. So much happens in this drama too. There’s the main story arc, but there are tons of smaller stories and characters to follow. I was amazed at how many characters they were.

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What I thought of certain characters

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Ji-ho Cheon (Song Dong-Il): Hey, this guy was a really good actor! I haven’t seen him in anything else before. He played repulsive really well. I didn’t really like him, but I started to feel differently about him when he lost his men. It showed that even though he was pretty crazy and scummy, he was loyal. Really, just like everyone else he was struggling to survive. I cried at the scene where he passes away and Dae-gil’s with him. Even though there were times it seemed like they hated each other, there was a mutual respect and they actually cared more about each other then was perceived.

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Kwak Han-Seom (Cho Jin-Woong): I wanted to mention Kwak Han-Seom because I really thought at first that he sold out all his military buddies. I didn’t realize they talked about it ahead of time. He was like a big teddy bear and I felt bad for him that the lady he loved died right after he told her how he felt.

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Tae-ha (Oh Ji-Ho): I couldn’t not like Tae-ha. He was really pretty amazing. I didn’t want to like him because I was rooting for Dae-gil to be reunited happily with his love Un-nyun. But really, Tae-ha was very well suited for Un-nyun, and I don’t even think Dae-gil would argue that. If Tae-ha wasn’t a great person, I don’t think Dae-gil would have accepted the marriage. Tae-ha was sexy, strong, and had a similar vision to what Dae-gil originally hoped for in seeing a new world. As painful as it was to watch, I really loved the later scenes in the show when Dae-gil and Tae-ha were finally over their spats and were travelling together. They really did seem like they became friends. I admire them both travelling together with full knowledge that they were both in love with the same woman. I think it was harder on Dae-gil, but it must have also been strange for Tae-ha to be escorted by his wife’s former lover. Tae-ha also knew how Un-nyun felt about Dae-gil, that it was the love of her life and that the reason she wasn’t with him anymore was because she thought he was dead.

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Un-Nyun / Hye-Won (Lee Da-Hae): I could see why Dae-gil was so crazy about her. She was beautiful, kind and loyal. I would like to share my two favorite Un-nyun scenes. The first scene is when she first sees Dae-gil and he’s with Seol-Hwa buying fabric. The emotions she goes through were really well portrayed. She’s shocked and it brings all her memories of him pouring back. She’s also relieved to see that he’s still alive.

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The other scene I liked with her was when she gets her face to face with Dae-gil after 10 years. He, of course, in true Dae-gil fashion, puts a knife to her throat. This is of course the opposite of what he actually wants to do. Dae-gil has a tendency to act different they he feels. It seems to be a coping mechanism. Anyway, she accepts everything he says to her even though it seems pretty harsh and she’s prepared to be killed by him thinking she deserves it. It really shows how much she loves him, but because of her circumstances, she cannot be with him. When Tae-Ha and Dae-Gil starts fighting, it’s pretty intense to watch her jump between them. Good thing they both have fast reflexes or she would have died right then and there.

Their love story is so tragic. For whatever reason Dae-gil and Un -nyun were fated to be star crossed lovers. I really wanted them to end up together, but once she fell in love with Song Tae Ha and married him, I knew there was pretty much no chance.

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Cheol-woong Hwang (Lee Jong-Hyeok): I don’t know how the rest of you felt, but I had mixed emotions when it can to Chel-woong. He did so many horrible things. He killed a lot of characters I really liked and was clearly a villain… but.. Oh man, I don’t know. I hated him, then I’d feel bad for him every once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not justifying any of his behavior. I mean, let’s face the facts, he was trying to kill the rightful Heir to the throne, he killed Dae-gil Oh Dae-gil! He killed  Tae-ha’s men, watched Tae-ha get tortured and had absolutely no problem with it (and the list goes on). He acted plain evil, selfish with the only concern of advancing himself. He was so pitiful at times though. You could tell he really cared about his mother and was worried about her. He wanted to prove himself and he didn’t want to be in Tae-ha’s shadow anymore. He was covered in darkness.

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I got emotional during his final scene where he returns to his wife after the battle. He’s wounded and broken. Completely broken, weak, helpless and he weeps on her. She’s really the only one he can go to at this point and still be accepted. She loves him so much and she just breaks down with him. As much as he’s horrible, and has no hope of salvation really, I feel like he’s baring his soul in this moment and is repentful of everything. He feels lost and this is a sad but beautifully raw moment. I didn’t think he was capable of showing us this side of him.

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The super sexy Jang-jun Choi (Han Jung-Soo) and hilarious Wang-Son (Kim Ji-Suk): I love these two buddies of Dae-Gil. They had traveled together a long time so they were all like brothers. Even though Dae-Gil denied being like family, these two meant so much to him. One of the hardest scenes for me to watch is when they go missing and Dae-gil knows that there is a very real possibility that they might be dead.  He’s sitting eating, and he’s imagining himself eating with them, as he has, everyday for years. He remembers that Officer Choi should have an egg buried in his rice bowl because the inn-keepers both love him and think he’s really sexy and manly.

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Sure enough, he finds the eggs and steals it. As he eats it, the flood gates come pouring open and Dae-gil is no longer able to hold in his emotions. He’s not just crying here. He’s morning a loss like you would over the death of someone very close and important to your heart. This moment to me was one of Jang Hyuk’s finest acting moments. He had me bawling my eyes out. Crying while eating and egg.. man oh man! Great scene. The scenes where they reunite is so beautiful too. A very happy moment!

I also love the scene when Wang-Son finds out that Dae-gil has taken the money he has been putting away for them to buy them each a house and land. The only house and land that was not yet fully purchased was his own. Oh Dae-gil! Can’t you ever think of yourself first? Okay, now I’m going to cry.. He was buying it for him and Un-nyun. I’m seriously going to cry now. Sigh… That plan didn’t work out.

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Eop-bok (Kong Hyung-Jin): Eop-bok was awesome. I didn’t care for him much at first but he grew on me. He was dealt a bad hand in life. For me, one of the most epic scenes was when this sniper slave starts shooting everyone at the palace gates in the final episode. I don’t encourage violence by any means, but I have to admit I was really cheering him on.

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This to me was poetic justice, but bittersweet. I am crazy about that song they play while he’s shooting. It’s pretty cool how he has two guns loaded at once, and switches between then. It’s like “Boom! Dead. Next gun, boom! Dead. Next…”. This scene was so well executed (no pun intended). I would have hoped that he could have lived happily with Cho Bok Yi but he couldn’t sit back and not do anything after all the slaves were deceived and murdered. I don’t think he could have lived with himself. This was him avenging their death.

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Seol-Hwa (Kim Ha-Eun): If I were character in this world, I believe I would be Seol-Hwa (and no, I don’t mean I would be a prostitute). I could see myself always longing to be by Dae-gil’s side, not just for his strength and looks, but his beautiful heart often overwhelmed by circumstance. The saddest part is she knew she couldn’t have his heart since it already belonged to someone else. I remember the scene where Dae-gil is crying uncontrollably in public and afterwards she talks about how she never saw a man cry like that and she’s really down.

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Wasn’t it cute when he went back to get her? He’s really teasing her here when he puts the coin in his mouth. She was so shocked and she lost the opportunity to touch lips with him! Why did he have to remove the coin so quickly? Bad Dae-gil! It’s not nice to tease! He has no idea how desirable he is.

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This scene killed me. Dae-gil was so sad…

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Dae-Gil (Jang Hyuk): Dae-gil is really a curious complex fella. He says one thing. But then his heart ends up being revealed when he shows his true self by doing something completely selfless. Dae-gil would laugh at things that you wouldn’t expect someone to laugh at. It was like a really weird coping mechanism he had.

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But is there a more beautiful character than Dae-gil? If there is, I haven’t had the chance to meet them yet in drama land. To me, Dae-gil is the most amazing, well acted character. It breaks my heart. Dae-gil shows us a pure kind of selfless love unlike other romantic dramas that are really centered around selfish love. By selfish love, I mean a love where you get something out of it in return. Dae-gil was willing to die for his love. All that mattered was her. This selfless love Dae-gil shows in heartbreaking. Until the very end, he knew he could never have her, so he wanted her to live and be happy. That’s all he was able to give her.

Dae-gil’s death (I shrill at these words)

This is devastating and heartbreaking and yet, it’s so beautiful at the same time. Dae-gil is dying, and thank goodness he does not die alone. I don’t think I would have been able to bear that. Seol-Hwa finds him. His final dialogue with her left me a wreck. She finally has the chance to properly give him the coat she’s made for him. He apologizes to her for being unable to accept her heart and dies in her arms.

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Closing observations

I loved this drama and would recommend people check it out even if it’s outside of their comfort zone.  I did feel I was at a bit of a disadvantage having to read subtitles. There’s a lot of dialogue and a lot going on. I had some difficulty keeping up. I also wanted to look closely at Dae-gil’s face when he was speaking, but couldn’t focus on his face because I had to make sure I didn’t miss what he was saying. I had to rewind a few times, and watch some parts of it so I could really appreciate it in it’s fullness. This is a drama I will re-watch. I feel like I’ll pick up way more the second time around.

The first half of the drama seemed a little slow. I felt Dae-gil was chasing after them forever. It took a long time for them to have their first face to face. The drama really pick up in the second half of it, and it was well worth sticking with.

I have to overlook any minor flaws and give this drama a perfect score because it simply epic. Dae-gil is epic.

My rating: 5/5

I had to include this clip at the end. There’s no better way to end it. The quality is horrible because I took it with my phone. When I get a better video I’ll switch it out.