From left, Lee Min-ho, Park Min-young and Lee Jun-hyuk at the press conference for upcoming SBS TV series "City Hunter" held in Seoul, South Korea on May 17, 2011. [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
The biggest rival to upcoming SBS TV series "City Hunter," premiering on May 25, is probably neither MBC's "The Greatest Love" nor KBS' "Romance Town" but its original comic. "City Hunter," released by Japanese cartoonist Tsukasa Hojo in 1985, was popular through Asia including Japan and Korea, with its story about a 'city hunter' named Ryo Saeba who was a lady-killer yet made sure of resolving cases that beautiful women requested of him. However, it is not easy to find traces of the original work in its upcoming drama adaptation. Ryo is cute and optimistic but has been replaced with Lee Yoon-sung (played by Lee Min-ho), a member of the presidential Blue House's national communications network control team who has a scar on his heart. And the story in general has been completely replaced with Lee Yoon-sung settling cases in order to get revenge for his father who was wrongfully killed due to the country's administration. The fact that the plot revolves around the heart of all power in Korea is another added element.
Discussions on the cast and planning to "City Hunter" actually started in 2007. So the drama is coming about after being met with complications for about four years but producers still remain burdened by how it may get compared to the original work with fans expressing their concern of the show ending up as something that is merely named "City Hunter." However, producer Jin Hyuk said, "Our drama is the prequel to the original comic and has been adapted to fit the situation in Korea. Many people have said it's too different from the original work but if you're one of those people who read the comic properly, you really won't feel much of a difference." Scenarist Hwang Eun-kyung remarked, "I thought I wouldn't be able to do this at first because I was thinking, 'We don't have guns in Korea and who murders by contract?' But then I started thinking that it would be nice to track down the villains that people holding the key to resolving issues in Korea feel resentment toward," to emphasize the upcoming show will be a Korean-style "City Hunter."
That is why unlike the original comic whose strength was in its sense of humor, the drama deals with a somewhat more serious topic. A video featuring the highlights to the drama at a press conference yesterday, hinted at focusing on a corrupt government as the target of revenge by showing anti-North spies by adopting the Rangoon bombing incident of 1983. This is the reason producer Jin Hyuk revealed that he wanted to "present a merciless fantasy about the stifling reality." In the end, the biggest task "City Hunter" will be faced with is how interesting of a job it will do in depicting on this not-so-easy-to-deal-with subject matter. Of course there are elements of romantic comedies in the drama as well, including how Yoon-sung and Nana (Park Min-young) fall in love amidst all their bickering. However, like Lee Min-ho said, it is difficult to define the show as being of a single genre and "it contains a lot of foreshadowing to the pains and conflicts." Hence "City Hunter" will undoubtedly differentiate itself from other romantic comedies in a certain way. The occasional action scenes in particular may draw in male viewers who do not know what to watch among the flood of sweet and funny romantic comedies. Will "City Hunter" be able to become a strong player in the already competitive Wednesday and Thursday primetime lineup?
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