Two of the most iconic fantasy k-dramas are “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God ( 2016)” and “Tale of the Nine Tailed ( 2020)”. It’s quite easy to get a reaction from fans of these series, all one needs to do is mention a red scarf or a red umbrella, or both. While it is undeniable that both shows are amazing in their own way, the two shows also have a great deal of similarities, besides recurring red objects and the unbelievably charming Lee Dong Wook playing unbelievably charming immortal characters. So here’s talking about the many ways in which these two shows are similar.
The Reincarnation Plot
Let’s start with the most basic similarity existing between the two shows. Both shows rely heavily on the reincarnation of important characters to either propel the story forward, or to fulfill character desires that were left unfulfilled in their past life.
In “Guardian : The Lonely and Great God”, reincarnation is elemental to the story of both the central couples. The characters of Wang Yu and Kim Sun are drawn closer to each other, partly due to them being connected in their past lives. This connection is also what brings complications in their romance, eventually tearing them apart completely.
Wang Yu was an emperor married to Kim Sun in their past lives, but his greed for power made him commit unthinkable atrocities against her and her loved ones. When she learns of this, she’s unable to forgive him even in her present life, and leaves him for good in spite of being in love with him. Wang Yu repents by respecting her wishes and letting her go. However, the miracle of reincarnation comes to their rescue once again, as they finally get their happily ever after in their next life, having no memory of their tormented past lives.
The story of Kim Shin and Ji Eun-Tak, on the other hand, does not incorporate reincarnation until the very end. When a cruel twist of fate snatches his wife, Ji Eun-Tak, from him just a day after their wedding, the immortal goblin Kim Shin ends up having to wait for her rebirth for almost a century. After hundred painfully long years, a reincarnated Eun-Tak finally finds him and the two are reunited.
In Tale of The Nine-Tailed, reincarnation does more than just create and solve problems between lovers. Agreed, the entire premise of the series focuses on the mountain god, Lee Yeon, waiting for over six centuries for his first love, Ah Eum, to be reborn. Since, after she was possessed by Imogi, the serpent, Lee Yeon is tragically compelled to kill her to end the serpent.
However, there’s more to it than just that. Ah Eum’s reincarnation unfortunately becomes a catalyst for the rebirth of Imogi.
After Lee Yeon discovers that Nam Ji-Ah, a television producer seeking his help, is actually the reincarnation of Ah Eum, he makes it his mission to keep her safe. Most of all, when the serpent that once possessed Ah Eum comes back alive in Ji-Ah’s body, Lee Yeon struggles to find a way to kill Imogi without hurting Ji-Ah and keep history from repeating itself.
Both shows use rebirth as a way to unite agonized lovers and right a lot of wrongs. While these plotlines aren’t exactly identical, the basic idea and foundational themes pertaining to reincarnation are similar.
The Self-Sacrificing Leads
In most stories of the fantasy genre, death is almost never a permanent affair. And thank goodness for that, considering their protagonists don’t think twice before rushing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. The protagonists of both the shows in question are guilty of the same.
In “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God”, the goblin, Kim Shin, is plagued by immortality. However, he finds respite in his eternity-long misery when he meets the love of his life, Ji Eun-Tak. Tragically, not long after he starts to appreciate life instead of craving death, he learns that his demise is essential in order to kill the antagonist, Park Joong-heon. Kim Shin decides to go out in a blaze of glory, taking his old enemy down with him.
Quite similarly, in Tale of The Nine Tailed, Lee Yeon discovers that the belligerent antagonist, Imogi, can only be killed if the person it’s possessing also dies. Lee Yeon transfers part of the serpent’s soul into himself, after which he arranges for the two of them to be pinned together by a sword and then jumps into the mythical river of Samdochen.
Both the characters go out smiling, knowing that they’ve brought an end to the evil plaguing the lives of their loved ones.
Fate vs Love
“Neither can live while the other survives.” This line from the prophecy in Harry Potter takes on a whole different meaning for the lead couples of the two shows.
In “Guardian”, Ji Eun-Tak was fated to be Kim Shin’s bride, but was never destined to be with him. Rather, it was her prophesied burden to draw the occult sword embedded in Kim Shin’s chest, an action that would end his life instantaneously. When she refuses to do so, destiny retaliates against her defiance by putting her life at risk time and time again. The multiple near-death experiences that Eun-Tak faces sends a clear message to her – end the goblin or perish.
In “Tale of the Nine Tailed”, the antagonist ,Imogi, possesses Nam Ji-Ah’s body, but doesn’t intend on making her his permanent residence. In actuality, he plans to force Lee Yeon to become his permanent host, since a nine-tailed fox and former mountain god would serve him better than a mere human. Since Imogi can only be killed if the person he’s possessing also dies, Lee Yeon and Nam Ji-Ah are caught in a dilemma. Either Nam Ji-Ah would have to die before Imogi takes complete control over her, or Lee Yeon would have to let himself get possessed and then end himself and Imogi. Either way, the tragic lovers can’t seem to find a single way in which they’d both make it out alive.
A Complicated Bromance
If romance is the heart of both shows, bromance is their soul. The bromances are complex, tangled and heart-wrenching in both.
In “Guardian”, Kim Shin and the grim reaper start out as frenemies turned roommates. Soon, however, they develop a liking towards each other’s company and eventually end up as best friends. The grim reaper even goes against his professional oath and helps Kim Shin keep Ji Eun-Tak alive. Sadly, Kim Shin soon makes a heart-breaking discovery that the grim reaper is actually the reincarnation of his old enemy, Wang Yu. This tears the good friends apart, to the point that Kim Shin moves out of his own home to stay away from Wang Yu. They eventually do come to an understanding, but not before gracing us with some of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the entire series.
In “Tale of the Nine Tailed”, Lee Yeon and Lee Rang are estranged half-brothers. Lee Yeon officially takes Lee Rang under his wing after Rang’s mortal mother abandoned him. The brothers spend a good few years together. When Ah Eum dies, Lee Yeon is distraught and, in his sorrow, abandons the mountain that he was a god of. With it, he lets go of Lee Rang as well. Thanks to his history of abandonment and the cruelty of humans he witnesses after his brother’s departure, Lee Rang becomes a hardened villain. Post that, the brothers butt heads multiple times, with Lee Rang feeling betrayed and sabotaging Lee Yeon as vengeance. It takes a lot of effort, convincing, and a near-death experience before Rang sees Lee Yeon’s side of things and finally forgives him.
Romance Under The Umbrella
In fiction, rain can be indicative of a lot of things. A thunderstorm helps build up intensity in a scene, and incessant downpour often accompanies heartbreak. However, the greatest pair would have to be that of rain and romance.
In “Guardian”, Kim Shin and Ji Eun-Tak have a strange relationship with the rain. For starters, they first lay eyes on each other on a rainy day. Also, Kim Shin, being a powerful goblin, unintentionally makes it rain every time he’s in a bad mood. Being an earnest lover, however, he makes his way to Eun-Tak with an umbrella each time. When Eun-Tak loses Kim Shin, the mere sight of rain makes her horribly depressed. The couple also have some of their most heart-felt moments in the rain.
In “Tale of the Nine Tailed”, when Lee Yeon becomes the suspect in a missing person’s case, Nam Ji-Ah tracks him down thanks to his signature red umbrella. Interestingly, it was Ji-Ah who had gifted him the umbrella in her past life, back when she was princess Ah Eum, Lee Yeon’s first love. Moreover, each time the lovers separate, they always reunite in the rain. Whether it was after Lee Yeon’s resurrection, or after his return from a time travelling adventure (okay, that’s from another season, but my point still stands).
The Movie Culture Synopsis
To sum it up, “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (check out the K-Drama review here) and “Tale of the Nine Tailed” are two K-dramas that share a lot in common. Both delve into themes like reincarnation, self-sacrifice, the clash of fate and love, and complicated bromances. Rain also plays a significant role in both series, symbolising romance and intense emotions. The greatest similarity between the two shows, however, is how wonderful they are, and how well they resonate with their audience. They’re both captivating, with good casts and intricate storylines, and most important of all, unmatched rewatchability.