2000 years ago, God's son Hwan Wung was sent to earth to make a world of peace and prosperity. He fails to unify the people after experiencing war, love and deaths. He goes back to heaven, leaving the four symbols behind. It is said that Ju Shin star will shine when the true King will be born.
What an awesome, awesome, awesome drama. I can warmly recommend this to anyone interested in history/fantasy.
I'm not very familiar with Korean/Asian history and myths or legends, but I kind of understood that this drama is based on exactly these things. It's the story of a great king who united the split nations in ancient Asia/Korea while avoiding unnecessary bloodshed, even at the cost of his own reputation, being badmouthed as a coward and worse.
He is protected (and here the fantasy part comes in) by the four guardians: phoenix, turtle snake, white tiger and blue dragon. The king himself is a son of heaven, but after failing in his first attempt to unite the people he retreats to heaven and lets his reincarnation do the job 2000 years later.
Problems arise when on the prophesied day of his birth two boys with royal blood are born and the guardian of the phoenix is not represented by one, but two women, who on top of that are sisters and of which one is said to be the black phoenix who set the whole world on fire 2000 years ago.
The viewer, though, knows right from the beginning which boy is the reincarnation of the son of heaven, only the identity of the true phoenix isn't revealed until the very end.
And thus the story of Dam Deok begins. A boy who just wanted to live peacefully with his father slowly realises, as the deaths and corruption around him increase, that he cannot run from his fate and puts up with great compromises in order to become the king he truly wants to be and yet always keeps on doubting himself.
On his journey he encounters love, jealousy, hatred, friendship, loss, grief and neither the court nor the people want to accept him as the king in the beginning.
It's really hard to summarise the plot of this drama, as it's so sweeping and involved many characters and relationships that start at very young age and develop along with the characters as they grow older.
I think that this drama has a very impressive beginning, starting by telling the legend of everything that happened 2000 years before the actual plot. But after that it drags along for a few episodes when the characters are introduced as babies and children and it's still hard to predict which direction this drama is going to take, but when Dam Deok finally accepts his fate (or at least admits that he is part of this story - he still does things his way and probably messes the heavenly plan up quite a bit) and overcomes his childhood love things start to get truly amazing. One guardian after the other is discovered and joins the king, war strategies that avoid bloodshed are developed and the king's opponents slowly realise who they have to put up with. With every fortress that is conquered the viewer (or at least I) can't help with being impressed by Dam Deok's ideas, his indifference towards pride and victory and his strong will to protect not only his people and friends, but also those of the other countries. He doesn't care about political advantage, but about advantage for all the people, for opportunities that allow them to prosper through trade and exchange.
I feel I am really not good at describing how awesome this drama is, but for me it was a mixture of Lord of The Rings, Final Fantasy and historical Korean drama. It has all the epic feeling from Lord of The Rings, the mysterious and beautiful fantasy setting from Final Fantasy and the romance and characters a good historical drama provides. In addition, acting was truly awesome and considering it was just a TV drama, so were filming techniques, special effects, costumes, war scenes, fighting scenes etc. I read that filming this drama took nearly two years, including one year of preparations this makes three years in which this drama arose. You can see it, you can feel it. All the love, enthusiasm, hard work and thought that was put into this drama is visible on the screen and cannot be compared to any other drama (at least none I have seen so far).
And yet, giving the slow and kind of shaky first part and the clearly rushed ending (they apparently had to stop filming earlier than planned because many actors, including Yong Jun got seriously injured), which prevented this drama from proving its superiority and opportunities, I really felt it was a waste. Taewang Sasingi was awesome, amazing, engaging, exciting, intoxicating, beautiful and tons of fun to watch - but it could have been EVEN MORE SO.
But this doesn't stop me from rating it a masterpiece and telling all of you to go watch it now.
Oh and before that: Did I mention the soundtrack? From Hisaishi Jou? You know, that genius who enchanted us all by bringing some Ghibli productions to life with his music? No?! Then I'll conclude my review with this: Truly. Amazing. Soundtrack. Perfect for this epic drama. And now go watch it.