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Il Ji-Mae
This is Korea. They don't have ninjas; they have really, really good thieves.

"Don't worry, I can steal anything. After all, I'm Il Ji-Mae."

Corruption and oppression in Korea during the time of the Qing Dynasty is Serious Business. The rich and powerful shed the blood of the innocent and just. And that's the good news. The bad news is that it's all about to get worse. And the family of one poor little boy is caught smack dab in the middle.

Il Ji-Mae is a Korean drama detailing a boy's growth and maturation into a hero against a spoiled government. Sure, the emperor seems like a nice guy, but his field of vision amounts to diddly squat, and the noblemen do as they please and take what they want. It's a little overacted, but the characters—just about ALL of them—are unique and engaging, and the story has more Character Development, plot twists, and Crowning Moments than you can shake a stick at. A very fine project that shows Korea's got chops of its own. Watch out though, some kink in Korean television scheduling puts each episode at over an hour without commercials, and there's a full season of them, so once you get started, fans suggest you get comfy.
This show includes examples of...

  • Abusive Parents: Si Hu's noble parents refuse to acknowledge him, even though he outshines their older son with flying colors.
  • Attempted Rape: And it just goes downhill from there...
  • Bad Ass: Il Ji-Mae, Yong-Jae the Fake Monk, the Emperor's assassin Chun, Si-Hu, even Bong-Sun gets a few moments
  • Batman Gambit: There's a rebellion brewing under the surface of the noblemen. Anyone who finds out about this rebellion, and isn't on their side, is arrested and murdered on charges of—three guesses—treason.
    • Yong gets increasingly good at this, using the noblemen's pride against them.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Emperor Injo is perpetually polite in a sickening way, but man, has he got a temper!
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: If you follow the lines of biology and match them with behavior, hoo boy.
  • Breather Episode: The first half of of episode 16.
  • Character Development: Gyum/Yong and Cha Dol/Si Hu are most notabe (at least as far as I've gotten.)
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Used on anyone who gets arrested for pissing off a nobleman.
  • Coming of Age Story: coming of age, then coming of Bad Ass
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Yong comes up with plenty of these to keep his parents from worrying when he gets beat up. They're never convinced, but at least they don't press him.
  • Darkest Hour: Yong's father is killed after impersonating Il Ji-Mae, the last man willing to help Gyum find his father's murderer is assassinated, and then Il Ji-Mae is slapped with murder after trying to interrogate the afore-mentioned last man willing to help Gyum.
  • Disney Death: Il Ji-Mae, at the end of the series.
  • Dramatic Shattering: When Yong realizes that the woman he scoffed at in jail was his long-lost sister, and she was set to be hanged.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: You killed Yang-sun! You BASTARD!!!
  • Forgotten First Meeting: One of the love interests figures out who he was by a piece of jewelry the boy who saved her life carried. The other love interest also figures out who he was because he continued a story he never finished when they were children.
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