Drama: Inspiring Generation/ Age of Feeling / 감격시대 / Gam-gyeog-si-dae
Starring: Kim Hyun-joong as Shin Jung-tae / Lim Soo-hyang as Deguchi Gaya / Jin Se-yeon as Ok Ryeon
Episode 1 starts off with Im Soo Hyang playing Gaya, a woman who seems to be out for revenge and is standing over man (that we cannot see), ready to kill.
The episode then jumps straight into action with Shin Jung Tae played by Kim Hyun-joong who is embroiled in a tough street fight against a hulk of a man. While it looks like he was holding his own at first, he is eventually knocked out by a particularly brutal hit to the head. Later, we found out that he was paid by his manager to purposely lose the fight. After the fight, his opponent came to pick a fight, he too believing that the fight was staged. Of course, Jung Tae beats him to the ground with ease. This was seen by a fighting master who was also watching the fight earlier. He urges Jung Tae to go to Shanghai.
Then we flashback to 8 years ago where young Jung Tae played by Kwak Dong-yeon (Adolescent Medley) makes a living pulling rickshaws in Shanghai for the rich Japanese people who are occupying the city. On one of his nightly runs, he saves a young girl named Gaya Teguchi played by Joo Da-young from a gang that was chasing her. We see that his street fighting skill started at a young age as he knocks those guys out. Although she tried to act tough in front of him saying that she could have gouged their eyes out, she was touched by his gesture. He tells her to meet her at the train station if she ever has trouble. She meets him there the next day dressed as a boy and they go on a ride to the lake. She lets down her hair during the ride and they enjoy the nice scenery.
After Jung Tae wins a racing bet with his friend while carrying Japanese ladies, he takes it to a medicine shop to buy powders for his sick sister, Chung Ah. At the medicine shop, we meet young Ok Ryeong played by Ji Woo who seems to have a huge crush on Jung Tae. She favors him and tries to help him save money. We find that she is the daughter of a gisaeng and aspires to be a singer. However, her mother hopes for her to break ties with the gisaeng world and be an apprentice. Later, we see Jung Tae’s friend being beat by what looks like loan sharks. Jung Tae stands up for his friend and punches the two bullies out.
Soon we see Gaya rescuing her father from two gangsters while he was digging in the trash for food. They are barely making ends meet and desperate for food. However, Gaya isn’t afraid to fight men who are much bigger than her. She seems to be working for the smuggling gang as well as a transporter, but dressed up as a guy. We then flip to a scene where a high looking Japanese official is issuing an order to his underling for some sort of attack and to bring back Lady Gaya. A birth secret, perhaps or maybe she ran away?
Meanwhile, Jung Tae’s friend thinks he can earn more money in a shorter period of time by joining the Dobinori Gang as a transporter. The gang are smugglers who deal with wholesale products by train. He tries to convince Jung Tae to dirty his hands as well to save his sister who needs a 10,000won surgery. After much debate, Jung Tae decides to try this venture and places all his money in his friend’s hands. His friend manages to pass on the money to the gangsters in an attempt to earn it big. They celebrate happily on their way home.
However, the happiness is short lived when they find that Dog Nose, one of the people of the gang made off with their money. Desperate, Jung Tae seeks to find Poong Cha, leader of the Dobinori gang to seek revenge and get back the stolen money. He chases them all the way to a gisaeng house and picks a fight with them. However, Poong Cha is a brilliant fighter and soon Jung Tae is bloodied and crawling on his knees. His friend tries to rescue him with a rock in his hand, but is stopped short when he sees Jung Tae sprawled on the ground. Jung Tae says he only earns 1 cent per run, and max 70 cents per day with only drinking water as a meal. He struggles hard every day to earn that meager sum in hopes of getting his sister surgery one day.
Comments: I must say, I really really like this drama right now! It hits all of my kdrama kinks. It is set in my favorite time period of Japanese occupation in Shanghai and features the fight for independence. I adore the noir style and costumes of that age. Furthermore, the first scene we get is of Gaya who looks vicious and pretty much a strong female character. Then enter Jung Tae who also has amazing fighting abilities and control. Although I am confused by the summaries of this drama, I am hoping that Gaya and Jung Tae will be endgame rather than him and the other singer, Ok Ryeon. I thirst for a dark romance of love/hate rather than the typical candy sweet type.. Gaya seems to have much more mystery and a dark past unlike Ok Ryeon who seems like your everyday happy go lucky drama heroine. But who knows, we will see? By the way, older Ok Ryeon is played by Jin Se-yeon (Bridal Mask much?) The flashback into the past again strongly reminded me of Bridal Mask where we see an adorable bromance forming between Jung Tae and his fellow rickshaw puller. We can also see that Jung Tae is a very righteous person, always willing to help out the weaker and not afraid to take on the bigger forces. I very much enjoy each fight between young Jung Tae and his adversaries. His signature move seems to be wrapping a piece of cloth around his hands or using that to hit. However, by the end of the episode, I can tell a series of unfortunate events will be occurring soon, maybe along the lines of his sister dying..or losing his friend? It is horrible to see the corruption in that period where the poor live abysmal lives while the middle class or rich squander their money and abuse the weak. However much this drama feels like Bridal Mask part.2, it does take on a different aspect of that occupation era. We view the fight this time starting from the alleyway and out. However, is Jung-tae going to join them (the gang) because he can’t beat them, or will he hold on to his values?