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Series / Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

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Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (도깨비, Dokkaebi; also called Goblin) is a 2016 Korean Drama series starring Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-wook, Kim Go-eun, and Yoo In-na.

Kim Shin is a goblin who is also a trickster and protector of souls. He lives with an amnesiac grim reaper in charge of seeing off deceased souls. One day Kim Shin meets Ji Eun-tak, a high schooler who can communicate with ghosts, who claims to be his bride.

The series can be watched on Viki with subtitles.

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Kim Shin tells Wang Yeo it doesn't matter what he did in his past life because it won't change how much Kim Shin dislikes him. Wang Yeo stares at him then bursts out laughing.
    • Wang Yeo accuses Kim Shin of lying about his age because he's 939, not 900. Kim Shin retorts that actually he's 938. After a Beat they both laugh.
  • Ancient Artifact: The sword stuck in Kim Shin's chest and Sunny's ring are both over 900 years old and play a part in their past lives.
  • An Ice Person: Reaper has ice powers to contrast with Kim Shin's fire. He mostly uses them to cool beer.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Not just that Eun-tak and Kim Shin need to get together, but also Kim Shin and Reaper meeting again, and Reaper and Sunny finding each other.
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • In Episode 6, Shin claims to have known William Shakespeare and even inspired Hamlet by coining the famous question "To be or not to be?"
    • In Episode 2, the "Goblin's Underwear" nursery rhyme is implied to be based on something Shin did in the past, much to his anger and shame.
  • Big Bad: Park Joong-heon is responsible for most of what went wrong in the backstory. He was the one that caused Kim Shin to become a goblin in the first place and indirectly also caused Wang Yeo's transformation into a reaper. By feeding on men's evils as a ghost, he also might have made Eun-tak the bride of the goblin.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Kim Shin has a few moments of this, usually when Eun-tak is in danger. An especially memorable one occurs when he and Reaper go to save Eun-tak from violent loan sharks who kidnapped her.
  • Big Fancy House: The house Kim Shin, Reaper and later Eun-tak live in.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Shows up when Kim Shin dies as a human.
  • Blue Blood: Deok Hwa is a chaebolnote , and acts it by being a Spoiled Brat.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: After a few drinks Kim Shin staggers around holding onto lampposts, and speaking indistinctly.
  • Clear My Name: In Episode 7 when Reaper gets pickpocketed and stuck with the bill for his office party. He needs Kim Shin to vouch for him at the police station.
  • Cool Sword: Kim Shin has one stuck in his chest. It's invisible to almost everyone except Eun-tak, and even she can't see it at first.
  • Cursed with Awesome: For his sins, Kim Shin is doomed to walk the Earth as a handsome rich guy with godlike powers. It has some bummer Who Wants to Live Forever? aspects, but still.
  • Damsel in Distress: Eun-tak, on occasion (kidnapped by loan sharks, pursued by grim reapers, involved in weird accidents...). Partly justified by her status as a missing soul, which means the universe tries to self-correct by killing her.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Reaper wears only dark colors, usually black, as befitting his job. He's a good guy.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Eun-tak's late mother has been shown as a loving mother that did everything she could for her daughter.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kim Shin and Reaper. Usually towards each other. Deok-hwa also has his moments.
  • Death Seeker: Kim Shin flip-flops on this. At first he's pretty sick of life due to living over 900 years and desires death. When he finds out that Eun-tak is his destined bride that can kill him, he freaks out and does what he can to avoid her. After he falls in love with her, he decides he wants to live with her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The loan sharks who kidnap Eun-tak are violently taken off the road by Kim Shin, their car is cut in half leaving them trapped inside it for a few days without dying and without the chance of rescue, and to top it off, Reaper pulls a mind trick that makes sure they will never get along with each other again. Then again, they were threatening to hurt and rape an innocent kid, so they maybe had it coming.
  • Evil Uncle: Eun-tak's aunt and cousins force her to do their chores, verbally and physically abuse her and try to steal Eun-tak's mother's life insurance.
  • Family of Choice: What Kim Shin, Eun-tak and Reaper become over the course of the series. And it's a beautiful thing to see.
  • Flaming Sword: Kim Shin's sword has blue flames surrounding it.
  • Fiction 500: Apparently the Yoo family business has many branches and earns so much money that Kim Shin never has to worry about it.
  • Food Fight: Kim Shin and Reaper hold telekinetic food fights.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Downplayed. Samshin asks God why he didn't just create a perfect world; he states then no one would look for God. So while it's not known if his powers depend on prayer, he does desire it at least.
  • Hat of Power: Every grim reaper has a black hat that turns them invisible if they wear it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Kim Shin finally pulls the sword from his chest to destroy Park Joong-heon, disappearing into the afterlife in the process. He gets better.
    • In the finale, Eun-tak puts herself in the way of an out-of-control truck in order to save a bus full of schoolchildren. She does not get better, but promises to look for Shin again in her next life.
  • Hetero Sexual Life Partners: Kim Shin and Reaper's relationship becomes this by the half-way point of the series.
  • Identity Amnesia: Every grim reaper is said to be a sinner, thus they were made reapers and lost their memories.
  • Immortality: Kim Shin is 939 years old. The only way for him to die is if his bride pulls the sword from his chest. After the sword is pulled from his chest and he returns to life, he's fully immortal.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kim Shin dies the first time when he gets stabbed with his own sword.
  • I See Dead People: Eun-tak can see ghosts, an ability that doesn't bring her much joy. This is also automatically true for the various supernatural beings.
  • Meet Cute: Amusingly subverted. Shin, in his capacity as a guardian, arranges a Meet Cute between two people in a coffee shop. When it turns out they're both already in relationships and also pretty horrible people in general, Eun-tak asks why he bothers to play Guardian Angel for them. Turns out that he doesn't; he's the guardian of the two people they are about to dump to be with each other, thus saving them from their lousy partners.
  • Mind over Matter: Both the Goblin and the Reaper. Needed for their respective jobs, but also frequently used for Mundane Utility and sheer shenanigans.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Episode 6 has a somber scene where Kim Shin asks Eun-tak to remove his sword and she tearfully refuses... which devolves into more petty bickering after she tells him to work on improving himself (bear in mind, at this point she still thinks removing the sword will simply make Shin "prettier"). Shin's cuckoo clock chiming only seals the deal.
    • Later in Episode 6, believing he's about to die, Kim Shin gives a very solemn goodbye and final request to Reaper. Then it's revealed he's saying all this to Reaper over the phone.
      Kim Shin: May you live a long, happy life. And I have one request. When I disappear, Eun-tak's birthmark will disappear, too. When that happens... erase her memory so she doesn't hate herself.
      Grim Reaper: What? Talk louder! I can't hear you with all the noise here!
      Kim Shin: (very annoyed) Use your earphones!
  • Noodle Incident: According to Episode 2, Shin suffered a greatly embarrassing underwear-related incident long ago. The details are never revealed, but the event was so notorious that it became the basis for the real-life "Goblin's Underwear" nursery rhyme.
  • Older Is Better: Joong-heon has spent over 900 years on Earth as an evil spirit which has made him strong enough that he can run from grim reapers and not even Kim Shin can kill him with his normal powers.
  • Ominous Korean Chanting: Shows up on the soundtrack occasionally.
  • One-Gender School: Eun-tak attends a girls-only high school.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: Eun-tak has one in the first episode due to having no friends at school and her aunt and cousins are abusive.
  • Only in It for the Money: Deok-hwa escorts and helps Eun-tak just so he has a chance at getting his credit cards back.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Kim Shin is a dokkaebi, the Korean equivalent of a goblin. He's nothing like most Western versions of goblins; he looks like a normal human, but he's immortal and has supernatural powers.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: If it hadn't been for Park Joong-heon's manipulation, Kim Sun and Wang Yeo would have had one. In their identities as Woo-bin and Sunny they fall in love immediately and despite him being the cause of her eventual death, love each other so much it carries over into their next life.
  • Pretty Boy: Most of the male cast, although Deok-hwa takes the cake, being the youngest.
  • Prophecy Twist: Kim Shin has lived with the knowledge that the only way he can die is if his Bride pulls the sword from his chest. In the rooftop fight against Park Joong-heon, he ends up needing that sword to fight, but Eun-tak has been knocked unconscious. To get around the seemingly-exact phrasing of the curse, Kim Shin wraps Eun-tak's hand around the sword hilt, but does the actual pulling himself. The sword was lodged there both physically and metaphorically, but none of the characters (except maybe Samshin) ever considered that.
  • Psychopomp: The grim reapers collect souls and guide them to the afterlife.
  • Rain of Arrows: The soldiers sent to arrest Kim Shin start shooting arrows into the crowd, killing Kim Shin's soldiers and the civilian bystanders.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Between Sunny and Reaper/Wang Yeo. They don't end up together in this life either, but the finale shows them reincarnated again as ordinary humans and this time they appear to be hitting it off smoothly.
  • Right Behind Me: In Episode 3, Deok-hwa gives a rather unflattering description of Reaper's physical traits, only to turn around and find him sitting right there.
  • Sadistic Choice: The king gives Kim Shin one. Either he lets himself be executed as a rebel, or he'll be forced to watch as innocent bystanders — including his sister — are killed instead.
  • Sadist Teacher: Eun-tak's teacher, who wastes no opportunity to humiliate and demean her students. Samshin eventually calls her out on this.
  • Secret Diary: Kim Shin keeps one written in hanja note . Deok-hwa being able to read it later hints that God is possessing him.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Eun-tak gets one after helping the ghost in Episode 5. The bill from emptying her fridge came to around $1,300 USD.
  • Shout-Out: Proof that Kim Shin the goblin is a cultured individual is that he owns a varied Art collection, in which Rembrandt van Rijn's The Night Watch is stored.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Kim Shin and Reaper spend a lot of time mocking and annoying each other before they become friends. They still like to mock each other even then.
  • Spit Take: Wang Yeo spits out his drink when Kim Shin says he inspired Shakespeare's "To be or not to be".
  • Stairway to Heaven: Shown whenever a spirit enters heaven through Reaper's tea room. In the last episode Reaper and Sunny leave together.
  • Suicide is Shameful: Reaper/Wang Yeo realizes at the end of the series that every reaper is a sinner because they committed suicide in their life and are made into reapers as both punishment as well as to make them realize how precious life is.
  • Tear Up the Contract: Kim Shin burns the lease Wang Yeo signed. Unfortunately for him that was just a copy, so Wang Yeo moves into his house anyway.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Kim Shin and Deok-hwa have a lot of money, and it shows in their seemingly-endless wardrobe of tasteful male fashion.
  • Unorthodox Sheathing: Kim Shin's sword is stuck in his chest. Only Eun-tak can pull it out, killing him.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Deok-hwa spends more of his time partying and whining that he doesn't have a credit card anymore then learning about the family business.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kim Shin and Reaper originally didn't like each other so would do anything to annoy the other, and they're shocked that they do become friends after being forced to live together. Also Eun-tak and Deok-hwa to a degree.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Kim Shin at first saw his immortality as a blessing but as the years went by he saw it as a curse as he kept bonding with and then losing members of the Yoo family who serves him.

Alternative Title(s): Goblin