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Series / Mr. Sunshine (K-Drama)

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Mr. Sunshine is a K-drama broadcasted on the Korean channel tvN and uploaded on Netflix worldwide in 2018.

A young boy born into a house servant's family escapes his master and travels to the United States during the 1871 Shinmiyangyo (Name of the U.S. expedition to Korea). He returns as a U.S. marine officer during a period of political turmoil, and falls in love with an aristocrat's daughter.


Mr. Sunshine contains examples of these following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Go Ae Shin, a Cold Sniper and a member of the Righteous Army. Kudo Hina is no slouch either since she is skilled at fencing.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: It may seem ridiculous to suggest that Eugene would be accepted to the Naval Academy, and commissioned into the Marines, given the prejudice against non-whites in the service at the time. But, while Asian Americans in the military were certainly the exception, not the norm, they have been documented as serving in the U.S. military at various times and places since the War of 1812. As early as 1860, foreign nationals from Japan and China attended U.S. military academies. So while there is no specific historical example, it is plausible that a smart young Korean could, with a wealthy and influential patron, get a commission at that time in history.
  • Anachronism Stew:
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    • When Ae Shin was born in Japan in the 1880's, her parents use Mauser C96 pistols when they fend of the Japanese instead of era-appropriate guns like the Smith and Wesson Model 1871, Colt 1860, Colt SAA revolver, or British Bulldog revolver.
    • The Japanese are also guilty of this. While they used Arisaka Rifles during the series, they use Gewehr 88s during the 1880's flashback instead of the Mauser 1871.They also used Gatling guns when they attacked the Royal Military Academy in the late 1900's instead of Maxim or Hotchkiss machine guns which they used during the Russo-Japanese War.
  • Anyone Can Die: Unless you're King Gojong or any of the other Historical Domain Characters, the chances of making it alive throughout the show is slim. Ae Shin is the only main character to survive.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of Dong mae's victims aren't very sympathetic.
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  • "Ass" in Ambassador: None of the foreign ministers are portrayed positively. Hayashi and Allen are given Historical Villain Upgrades, and the American minister in Japan isn't portrayed any better.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Ae Shin and her family seem to be the exception to this rule. The majority of Korean aristocrats are some combination of callous, corrupt, backstabbing, and reactionary as the Joseon Dynasty comes to a close.
  • Ax-Crazy: Tsuda, when angered, will lash out anyone unfortunate enough to be near him.
    • Mori Takashi delights in torture and murder
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ae Shin finally leads The Righteous Army in Manchuria, but at the cost of the lives of Dong Mae, Hina/Yang Hwa, Hui Sung, and Eugene/Yoo Jin, Joseon being conquered by Japan in 1910, and leaving her countrymen at home behind.
  • Blue Blood: Ae Shin and Hui Sung are part of the Joseon aristocracy.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Ae-sin is shown training with what explicitly looks like a single-shot matchlock rifle (one of the oldest types of handheld guns, and the most common firearm in pre-1900 East Asia), and yet she's able to fire multiple shots, in sequence, in the same (camera) shot, without reloading (which was laborious and slow for a matchlock), at a bunch of pottery targets. It might be plausible if there was only gunpowder without a bullet in the chamber, but she's shown actually destroying some of the targets.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Sure, Suzuki, keep being an asshole to Dong mae. Let's see how that works out for you...
  • Byronic Hero: All three of Ae Sin’s suitors, each in their own way.
    • Hui Sung is nice enough, but he’s a dilettante and a womanizer with no real ambition.
    • Eugene is noble and brave but his cruel experiences have made him pragmatic and cold. He clearly feels empathy but rarely puts it to use.
    • Dong-mae is the most problematic to like: he’s unequivocally done some very bad things, but he frequently goes out of his way to help others, or avoid harming them. It’s not always clear if it’s his affection for Ae Sin that brings out his better nature, or if he’s fighting a naturally good nature in order to survive amongst bad people.
  • Central Theme: How the post-Industrial Revolution, pre-World War 2 world was time of great change and development but how disparities in said development made some countries very rich and strong (the US and Japan) while others stayed poor and weak (Korea).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While packing for Korea, Eugene has a conversation with his Japanese neighbor, who reveals he is also traveling to Asia. He returns much later in the series, as a Japanese general who is determined to take Joseon's sovereignty.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Koreans couldn't stand a chance against either Americans using rolling-block Rifles and breech-loading cannons(using their outdated Matchlock rifles) during the Battle of Ganghwa and the Japanese (most of them were well-trained and have experience fighting in China and Russia) when they took over Korea.
  • Darker and Edgier: Considering that this is set before the Joseon Dynasty was dissolved and the Japanese took over, this series is this to most of Saeguks (historical K Drama) in general.
  • Dawn of an Era: In spite of feelings of End of an Age for traditionally minded characters, Joseon by 1900's had experienced a massive change in technology and society as it opened its door to foreigners. The major example is the introduction of electric lamps, which awed Joseon-era Koreans when they witnessed them.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The series portrays the less-romantic side of life during the Joseon Dynasty.
    • Dong Mae's Dark and Troubled Past as the child of butcher family shows how people were ostracized due to their "unclean" nature of their work.
    • Slavery in Joseon was so institutionalized that slave hunters were hired to find escapees, who would be put to death along with their families once they were returned to their owners. Even after slavery was abolished and modernization appeared in Joseon, social and gender stratifications linger on.
    • Go Ae Sin has to deal with restrictions placed on noblewomen. Her grandfather would have her stay at home rather than learn about worldly matters, and is appalled when she attempts to oppose her arranged marriage. Her servant discourages her from attending a school meant for commoners.
    • Despite how powerful and respected Eugene has become, everyone who cares for Ae Sin tries to end their romance when they discover he was born a slave, fearing she will be ostracized.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: All but one of the main characters die, and most of the supporting characters as well.
  • Eagleland: As a collective, the nation is seen as rather boorish, having sent troops to Korea in pursuit of its colonial ambitions, and exploiting Joseon economically. The show also makes an effort to fairly represent that numerous nation-states of the time had similar imperial ambitions—particularly Japan and Russia.
    • Major Moore is an excellent example of the dichotomy, with his cheery ignorance prompting him to ask dumb and often offensive questions (“Eugene, how do Joseon women see color with black eyes?”), but his inherent sense of fair play prompting him to help Joseon at great personal inconvenience and risk, in their hour of need.
  • End of an Era: The series takes place in the last decade of a united, independent Korea.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Musin Society are brutal gangsters who commit extortion and murder as a matter of course. But they are fiercely loyal to each other and to their leader, Dong-Mae. Dong-Mae calls them “family” at one point.
  • Evil Chancellor: Downplayed. Gojong's regent is loyal, but fatally stubborn and arrogant. He exhorts the court to be hawkish and ignores the words of more realistic-minded bureaucrats who recognize that their "inferior barbarian" invaders have military and technological superiority. When their "defense" ended with massive casualties, he condemns the surviving soldiers for "cowardice.” He withholds information from Hina about her mother’s whereabouts in order to extort her cooperation for longer.
  • Evil Old Folks: Hui Sung's grandfather is a major example as he almost killed Eugene as a group-punishment for his parent's escape even if he was not informed about it. Furthermore, he sold off the land of a desperate farmer just to buy a watch for his grandson.
    • Lee Wan-ik, an older man, is one of the most evil characters in the show.
  • Femme Fatale: Kudo Hina, beautiful young widow of a wealthy old man. She doesn’t go out of her way to look like she’s mourning the man who cruelly abused her, and then dropped dead one day of mysterious circumstances. Instead, she spends her time manipulating the Japanese occupiers and influencing political events. Oh, and getting richer by the minute.
  • Foil
    • Eugene and Dong-mae have almost perfectly parallel stories, except that they ended up loyal to opposing countries, and the actions of both reflect the nature of the people that took them in.
    • Hina and Ae Shin may seem like polar opposite personalities, but both women use their public personas to hide their political activism, both rebel against the roles society has handed them, and neither is afraid to use violence when necessary.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Despite Eugene's efforts to save Joseon from ruin, his home country was conquered anyway by Imperial Japan. Also adding salt to the wound, after Imperial Japan surrendered after World War II, Korea was split into two until today.
  • Foreshadowing: The first English words Ae Sin learns are “gun,” “love,” and “sad ending.”
  • Friendly Enemies: Despite the fact that Eugene and Dong-mae are natural enemies, being from rival countries and in love with the same woman, their conversations always instantly de-escalate from “menacing subtext” to sounding more like two old friends just taking the piss out of each other.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The series provided a nuanced take on dramas set Joseon Dynasty, which is the main staple of Sageuk historical dramas. Unlike most mainstream series' focus on upper-class characters, Mr. Sunshine showed the ugly side of Joseon Dynasty with their slavery, caste system, rigid gender roles, and cultural stagnation by the end of the 19th century. As a result, lower classes characters like Eugene (a former slave) and Dong Mae (son of "unclean" butchers) had negative views towards the dynasty compared to many traditional aristocrats.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Everyone in the show basically had its flaws and strengths. Eugene only felt loyalty to the United States since he had a bad childhood in Joseon-era Korea as a child born to a family of slaves, but he is nonetheless willing to help Joseon if possible. Joseon Dynasty is defending their culture and independence but they suffered from general divide among the nobility (some influential aristocrats being pro-Japanese) and many commoners on the Righteous Army only had ties with them as an Enemy Mine situation since they dislike the court aristocracy and the king but only shared in their goals of their own sovereignty. While the series portrayed Imperial Japan as villainous, many characters ranged from generally kind people to sociopaths. In addition, many Les Collaborateurs characters—especially lower-ranking people like Dong-Mae—founded Japan as for a chance to advance their stations restricted by their home country.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Lee Wan ik, a smug traitor and Abusive Parent responsible for the deaths of several people, both directly and indirectly.
    • Lee Se hoon, a classist aristocrat who abuses his servants and is willing to betray Joseon for personal gain.
    • Mori Takashi, who delight in torturing and killing Koreans. Even his own men aren't safe, as Sasaki found out.
    • More minor characters, such as Tsuda, Suzuki and Hasegawa, are also extremely hateable.
  • Historical Domain Character: Several:
    • In the Joseon government, King Gojong is one of the major characters in the show. Gojong's father, Heungseon Daewongun, appears in the pilot episode. Ye Wanyong and the four other Eulsa traitors appears towards the end of the show.
    • On the Japanese side, Ito Hirobumi appears as a Greater-Scope Villain, with Mister Hayashi being the de-facto leader of the Japanese in Joseon. Both were real people. General Hasegawa, the Real Life Japanese Governor-general of Korea, appears as a villain in the final episodes.
    • On the American side, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. President, appears in the first episode. Howard Allen, the American minister, was also a real person. In the final episode, Frederick Mckenzie, a British journalist appears to take a picture of the Righteous Army, an actual event in Real Life.
    • Famous historical Korean figures, such as Ahn Chang-ho and Park Seung-hwan, also make one-episode cameos.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Oddly, the series portrays Horace Allen as a corrupt [[Jerkass]]. In Real Life, King Gojong was actually grateful to him for his help in foreign affair and modernization, and awarded him the highest decoration, Taeguk.
    • There is no record of the real Hayashi executiing any Japanese soldier.
  • Historical Downgrade:
    • Horace Allen, in Real Life, introduced Western medicine to Korea, industrialized many aspects of Korea, and faithfully supported King Gojong. Here, he's a prejudiced idiot bribed into freeing prisoners by Lee Wan ik.
  • The Ingenue: Ae sin asks Eugene to do “love” with her, not knowing what it means in Korean, only that it is supposedly better than a title, and that it must be very difficult. Eugene is extremely bemused and agrees—-without explaining what it is.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Eugene Choi considers himself as an American rather than a Korea after arriving as a child who escaped to America with an aid of a missionary.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: The American soldiers in the series are armed with what is similar to Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles, which is a standard issue of the British military, instead of Springfield rifle.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Realizing that Ae Shin loves Eugene, Dong Mae—and eventually Hui Sung too—gives up on Ae Shin. Despite very much wanting the marriage to happen, Hui Sung joins Ae Sin to formally beg her grandfather to allow them to break the engagement, even claiming it is his wish.
  • La Résistance: The Righteous Army are resistance group aim to oust imperial powers—especially Japan—from Korea. Ae-Shin and Seung Goo were two notable members of the series.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Hoo, boy. Eugene loves Ae Shin and she loves him, but he was born as a slave and she was a noble. To complicate matters, Hui Sung is Ae Shin's Fiance, Dong Mae has feelings towards Ae Shin since they were kids, and Hina falls in love with Eugene, but after realizing that Eugene and Ae Shin are meant for each other, she falls again for Dong Mae. It still fails since Dong Mae has no interest towards her. Poor girl, she really wanted a hug.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Mrs. Logan is a snob who talks down to Joseon people, but she’s the perfect person to put Lee Wan Ik in his place. While everyone else is tiptoeing around him, she cuts off his condescending speech, critcizes his English, calls him stupid, and tells him hurry up and sign the title. He is left speechless, while it’s all Eugene and Dong-mae can do to keep from laughing.
  • Morality Pet: Dong-mae has a pretty-but-mute fortune-teller living with him named Hotaru; she is slavishly devoted to him, and he treats her with uncharacteristic gentleness. Similarly, he has a strangely Platonic friendship with the beautiful Hina. They consult with each other on their business ventures, and are comfortable enough to walk into each other's rooms unannounced.
    • He ends up kicking her out of his apartment once she leads the Music Society to Ae shin.
  • Older and Wiser: Downplayed for King Gojong since he is still flawed as a ruler despite his lack of indecisive nature and reliance on his regent by the present time of the series.
  • Never Learned to Read: Downplayed Trope, Eugene only know how to read and write in English but lacks the same ability in Korean due to his upbringing as a slave. In fact, he only learned basic literacy in Korean later in the series.
  • Pair the Spares: Subverted. A more conventional story would have had Dong-mae and Kudo Hina live happily ever after. Instead, Hina confesses her unrequited love shortly before ''both'' die.
  • Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Averted. A lighter show might've softened the depiction of The Musin Society's shadier activities—especially since Dong-mae is a member of the main love triangle—but nope! We see them committing murder, extorting protection money, running brothels, blackmailing widows...the list goes on.
  • Rags to Riches:
    • Eugene/Yoo Jin was born as a slave in Joseon dynasty before he was shipped off to America before becoming a prestigious Marines officer.
    • Dong Mae was born to a family of butchers, which their "untouchables" status meant that wealthier castes would abuse them regularly. Dong Mae was disowned by his mother and ran away to Japan where he became a top member of a Yakuza gang.
    • Lee Wan-Ik is one of the powerful court officials but came from landowning middle-class family, which often resulted in his request for promotions being blocked by the jealous aristocracy to the point of him aligning with Japan as an alternative mean.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • Lee Se hoon accidentally shot one of his servants when he attempted to figure out how to use a Japanese pistol while being attacked by a marksman.
  • Self-Made Man: Eugene and Dong-mae both clawed their way out of the oppression and persecution they faced in Joseon to become powerful men each in their right.
    • Lee Wan-ik was also born into a middle-class family. He had to learn both English and Japanese to get to the position he's in.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The story follows the rebels who first wanted government reform, and then resisted the Japanese colonization of Korea. See Foregone Conclusion.
  • Sins of the Father: It eventually comes to light that a great deal of Hui Seong’s apathy comes from the terrible burden of guilt he feels for his grandfather’s deeds and the suffering they caused, and the way he personally has benefited from those sins. When he finally realizes that Eugene bears a grudge against his family, he does not ask what or why but simply asks if it was his father or grandfather.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Lee Wan-ik cares for no one but himself.
    • Tsuda doesn't seem to care one bit about the death of his friend, even sitting on their corpse and stealing their money.
    • Takashi Mori is willing to torture and kill even his own soldier, and he is perfectly fine with using even his own wife as a Human Shield.
  • Undying Loyalty: An unusual example of a commander being loyal to their soldier. Major Kyle Moore goes to great pains for Eugene.
  • Vestigial Empire: The series' setting marked the twilight of Joseon Korea, which the once-isolated kingdom faced a crisis against Western Imperialism and internal strife from discontent reformers.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Americans abandon their invasion and return their prisoners with elaborate apologies and compliments for the courage and skill of the defenders. Since they had no reason to fear retaliation, one could assume they were sincere.

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