I love fusion sageuks, that wonderful mixture of historical background and whatever-the-hell-else-you-want-to-add-in. Whether it’s supernatural elements, fictional people and events, re-tellings, etc., these non-historical elements can be a lot of fun.
#1 – Arang and the Magistrate
From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.
#2 – Sungkyunkwan Scandal
A young Joseon woman cross-dresses in order to provide for her family, gets tangled up with three pretty boy scholars, and is forced to attend the best school in the nation—seems like the perfect storm of clichés, right? But Sungkyunkwan Scandal is far more than the sum of its parts, and its earnestness mixed with cutting commentary on classism and feminist issues is enough to delight just about any drama fan. Our main quartet (and their developing friendships and romances) are the strongest part of the drama. The four of them uniting together to solve a mystery and get justice for old wrongs is a satisfying, though not perfect, final arc. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something that will make you smile.
#3 – The Three Musketeers
Kdrama adaptations don’t always work well, but this fantastic adaptation of the famous Dumas novel was clearly made by people who had great fondness for the original. It had a great mix of humor, action, and high-stakes politics, all centered on a doomed crown prince. Jung Yong-hwa put in a great performance as Dal-hyang, and Lee Jin-wook was perfect as Crown Prince Sohyeon. While the leading ladies didn’t get as much screen time as the eponymous musketeers and their tagalong, they were solid characters with some wonderful moments. I’m still weeping over what could have been in seasons two and three and the eventual death of the crown prince.
So what are your favorite fusion sageuks? I want to know!