by Wiam Najjar, October 28, 2016

Shine or Go Crazy vs. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

It has been so long MDLers. I’m dying of stress here but I couldn’t resist the temptation of writing this article any longer, so here you go.

Most of you must have noticed that the sensational Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo covers the same historical period and figures that Shine or Go Crazy covered only a year ago. And as a fan of the 2015 version, I couldn’t but help compare between the portrayals of the characters. And let’s admit, it isn’t fair most of the time.

The Protagonist anti-hero Wang So

Jang Hyuk vs. Lee Joon Ki


Oh My!

Wang So grew up harshly, to say the least. He was unwanted wherever he went. He had to study, train and even develop emotionally in secret, since he was supposed to breathe only and survive. He was not to learn anything. He wasn’t to evolve. He was a danger. He was a curse.

This much is brilliantly played by both great actors. Jang Hyuk –almost always (99% of the time) plays conflicted characters. I’m sure it was no trial for him to play the torn Wang So. He had to have double lives, sacrifice things because of a belief endowed upon him, bury his emotions like they never existed and maintain an unscathed appearance. Jang Hyuk was so natural in playing Wang So that it was a BIT weird to find Lee Joon Ki playing the same role. Apart from the scar that Jang Hyuk’s Wang So didn’t have, the two characters share all the above, with a little added cruelty to Lee Joon Ki’s. Both play the same character with the same struggle but amazingly differently. Thanks to their distinctive acting styles, both Wang Sos are charismatic and unbelievably relatable.

There’s something that’s annoyed me since Shine or Go Crazy though. Wang So is supposed to be in his early twenties in the period handled. Neither actor looks to be in their twenties. They look young and gorgeous and all, but not in their early twenties. Even Lee Joon Ki looks a little old around the eyes, people! And they shaved Jang Hyuk’s facial hair to make him look younger at the beginning of the drama which actually made him look even older. I love these actors and I really enjoy their historical roles but let’s be a bit realistic when we cast, for goodness’ sake.

According to performance, both actors get a 10.

But if we were to fit their performances in the story

Let’s see... Jang Hyuk will get more when it comes to his chemistry with the female leads.

And Lee Joon Ki will get more for his chemistry with the male leads.


The Antagonist and Villain: Wang Wook

Im Joo Hwan vs. Kang Ha Neul


I refuse to do this.

I’m a big fan of both actors. Like BIG fan. And comparing them is a real ordeal.

But let’s take it on.

In both dramas, Wang Wook and Wang So fight over a woman. In Moon Lovers, thankfully, there’s at least a real struggle, because in Shine, Wang So was the winner from the kick-off which was no fun. Wang Wook is an ambitious prince (add some family pressure) with a soft heart. Ambition and family seem to win more often though. He is stuck in a political game he's tried to avoid and lost his soul in the process. His inner conflict between his family’s expectations and his love is so beautiful but painful to watch. And both actors are just pros at reflecting pain. Both create masterpieces with their tears. They’re kings of facial expressions. Oh my god.

While Kang Ha Neul actually looks young enough to play the role of Wang Wook (26 isn’t old, is it?), he doesn’t look the same age as Lee Joon Ki (when he’s supposed to). On the other hand, Im Joo Hwan doesn’t look much younger than Jang Hyuk but both look much older than their characters.

Do I like one more than the other? Never!

Im Joo Hwan scores more in cruel acting but Kang Ha Neul scores more in crying scenes.

Kang Ha Neul scores more when it comes to chemistry with the female lead AND his hairstyle and makeup. Im Joo Hwan’s stylist in Shine was a total turn-off.

I love both actors and I’m completely enjoying their performances everywhere.

The Fantastic Female Lead: Shin Yool vs. Hae Soo

Oh Yeon Seo vs. IU


Both female leads are unreal. Shin Yool from Shine or Go Crazy is a Princess of the extinct Balhae while Hae Soo is a time traveller (in a way. Watch and see). Both are bright, caring, clever and assertive. In short, they’re nothing like the women of their age which is reason enough for the extraordinary princes to fall. Despite the unconvincing gender-bender and illness episodes in Shine or Go Crazy, and the whole time-travelling thing in Moon Lovers, the characters of the female leads are beautifully written…


When it comes to acting, Oh Yeon Seo (who played Shin Yool) scores MORE than IU (who plays Hae Soo.) IU has considerably improved. She’s not annoying anymore. She is good. She tries and is totally immersed in the character. But she’s not at the level of her co-stars. In some moments, I don’t think she fits there. She lacks chemistry with Lee Joon Ki (it gets better after episode 14 but like, really?) and is always too shocked. While watching Oh Yeon Soo made me think, ‘’ah! This is how the princesses of the past looked like!’’ She was real. IU, not there yet.

I vote for Shin Yool.

Antagonist Princess: Hwang Bo Yeon Hwa

Lee Ha Nui vs. Kang Han Na


Let’s admit it. I understand and even sympathise with the way Princess Hwang Bo Yeon Hwa grew up. Her life in the palace turned her that way. It’s completely understandable.


I don’t like her. I feel that even if she didn’t go through all that she went through, she’d still be evil.

Or this is how the writers wrote her character?

I hated her 80% of the times in Shine but couldn’t help it all the time because of the awesome performance of Lee Ha Nui. That actress knows how to be bad! Did I ever mention that she was even better than Oh Yeon Soo in the drama?!

So would I be able to compare her to what’s-her-name Kang Han Na? No.

I’m not saying Kang Ha Na is a bad actress, god forbid. I’m only saying she’s not up to the role.

Not that the female lead is! (I didn't say that!)

I will be killed tonight.

I don’t need to write scores, do I?

Prince Wang Yo (later King Jeong Jong)

Ryu Seung Soo vs. Hong Jong Hyun


Now this is difficult

In Shine, Wang Yo is already a king. He’s weak, petrified and mentally unstable. And on top of it all, he completely depends on Wang So who serves him faithfully and loves him with all his heart.

While in Moon Lovers, Wang Yo's character development is pretty impressive. Hats off to the writer. He started invincible, ambitious and formidable, but then.. that fatal mistake of ........... Eun (fill in the blank) that lost him his sanity. In Shine, the reason behind the mental deterioration is poison while in Moon Lovers, it's more intriguingly psychological. Wang Yo doesn't stand So but uses him all the time, quite contrarily to his character in Shine. 

As for acting,

I admire Ryu Seung Soo. I've always thought him to be underrated. But with every episode of Moon Lovers, Hong Jong Hyun's performance improves astonishingly. He was a very good actor for me before I started Moon Lovers and now he's excellent. I would love to feel the shivers down my spine caused by seeing him in another role as a villain. I don't sound too masochistic, do I?

Wang Geon (King Taejo)

Nam Kyung Eup vs. Jo Min Ki


Cruel or whatever, this guy created a nation.

In both dramas, Taejo doesn’t really stand out as a character as much as the consequences and effects of his actions affect the other characters, which say a lot.

But no matter what, Nam Kyung Eup is no Taejo, Jo Min Ki definitely is. And if you’re a K-drama freak, you’d know what I mean.

You cannot even compare the two. Totally different levels.

Wang Won

Ji Eun Sung vs. Yoon Sun Woo


The characters in the two dramas both have one thing in common... You can't stand them.

The two actors are handsome, and yet both are despicable.

In Moon Lovers, we get to see Wang Won more though. And how I wish I could figure him out.

Empress Dowager Yoo

Ji Soo Won vs. Park Ji YoungmLnnP7lL_2010ac_f.jpg

Can a mother be more hateful?


I’ll repeat my question, why have them if you were going to throw them to the dogs? A curse! You throw a kid to the wilderness because he was cursed! Don’t tell me there are hidden facts and she’s all redeemed at the end (we don’t know about Moon Lovers yet but she was in Shine). And why on earth does Wang So want to get acknowledged by her? Don’t you think Korean writers take the relationship between a mother and her children a bit too far?

Both actresses are good at being terrible, I admit. Both are hateful. Both are eye-sores (figuratively since they’re beautiful in real life). Who’s worse? Park Ji Young of course, because she’s a better actress.

Oh the shivers.

Choi Ji Mong

Kim Byung Ok vs. Kim Sung Kyun


Aeyyyy! It’s unfair for average-but-everywhere actor Kim Byung Ok to be compared with the brilliant Kim Sung Kyun(and with an intelligently written character to boot.) While they’re both essential to the story, especially Wang So’s life, we cannot really compare them. Kim Byung Ok played just a supporting character while Kim Sung Kyun is as important to the turn of events as any lead. And he’s on a different acting level, and different charisma, and on my god Reply 1994 reminiscences.


Princes Baek Ah (Nam Joo Hyuk), Wang Eun (Byun Baek Hyun) and Wang Jeong (Ji Soo) have no equivalents in Shine or Go Crazy. In Shine or Go Crazy, there are princes Wang Wi (Park Sun Ho), Wang Jong (Yeo Ui Joo), Wang Rim (Shin Jeong Yoon), Wang Moon (Ha Dae Roo) and Wang Jik (Yoon Dae Yong). I’m no historian but from research I found that the princes in Moon Lovers actually existed while I’m not sure about all the princes in Shine or Go Crazy. In the latter, apart from the two leads and Wang Yo who was a king, the other princes didn’t really add any weight (except that their outfits were just magnificent). While our princes in Moon Lovers are not only heartthrobs, but they are essential to the plot (which we’re totally thankful for).

Who do you think played their roles better? Make sure to share your opinion with us!

Good luck.