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Series / The Gu Family Book

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The Gu Family Book (구가의 서, also known as Kang Chi, the Beginning) is a South Korean drama series starring Lee Seung-gi and Kpop idol Suzy. It aired 24 episodes on MBC, Mondays, and Tuesdays from April 8 to June 25, 2013.

The fusion martial arts action historical drama is about Choi Kang Chi, a human-gumiho hybrid who is searching for a centuries-old book that, according to a legend, contains the secret to becoming fully human. Through some whirlwind occurrences, he is accused of killing his foster father. Setting up this scheme is Jo Gwan Woong, an evil nobleman who lusted after Kang Chi's mother and therefore is destroying her life. Accompanying Kang Chi is Dam Yeo Wool, a noble's daughter and master of archery.

This series provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Kang Chi to the rest of Master Dam's school when they find out he's not human. Justified in that he nearly kills one of them in his true form, and they think he's killing people in the forest.
  • Almighty Janitor:The old man who works in the kitchen is one of the Four Masters, and a Guile Hero in his own right.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Yeo-wool with the resurrected Wol-ryung. Fortunately, he just wants information.
  • Alpha Bitch: It might be a gisaeng house rather than a high school, but Wol San fits this to a T, complete with a Girl Posse, picking on younger girls to keep them below her, and pride in being the most elegant of the women there.
  • Anticlimax: Invoked by Kang Chi after Jo Gwan Woong has been spreading rumors around town that he's a half-gumiho (true) who's responsible for the recent murders (not true). He brings a large crowd of people to the Hundred Year Inn, and asks Jo Gwan Woong how he can prove his humanity, to which Jo Gwan Woong responds "Take off your bracelet". He takes it off, Dramatic Wind starts up...and then nothing happens, as Kang Chi has figured out how to stay human by now. Thus, completely discrediting the rumor.
  • Backstory: Kang-chi's parents, for the first two episodes.
  • Badass Normal: There are humans who can slay mythical beings. Sheriff Dam is one although he failed to properly kill Wol-ryung. Gon might be one.
  • Bound and Gagged: Yeo-wool's teacher winds up like this whenever Yeo-wool tries to sneak out.
    • In the 23rd episode, Yeo-Wool ends up like this as well, when she's successfully kidnapped by Gwan-wong's men.
  • Break the Cutie: Chung-jo is the most obvious broken cutie, but there are many others.
  • Came Back Wrong: Wol Ryung rots the greenery around him while resurrecting, then acquires red eyes, an all-black wardrobe, and a murderous attitude regarding anything tangentially attached to Seo Hwa. He's probably fine.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The broom that Kang Chi rams into the floor as an ultimatum to Jo Gwan Woong proves vital in the plot to steal the silver.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Wol-ryung's first genuine fight against Kang-chi takes less than ten seconds, and ends with Kang-chi getting strangled.
    • Curb Stomp Cushion: Their second battle. Kang-chi still loses, but it takes longer and he actually gets some hits in.
  • Distant Finale: the final few scenes of the show take place in modern day South Korea.
  • Dying Curse: Lady Yoon curses Jo Gwan Woong to die at the Hundred Year Inn, running herself through to seal the deal. In the finale, he dies in the prison under the Inn. Chung-jo's poisoned wine helped seal the deal.
  • Foreshadowing: When Kang Chi first transforms, a short talk with Yeo Wool gets his eyes to briefly revert back to their normal color. The next time he transforms, he reverts back completely with her help, and she becomes the Kid with the Leash.
  • Fridge Logic: Invoked by Master Dam after Tae Seo is hypnotized to believe Kang Chi killed his father. He asks Tae Seo for details about the memory, and Tae Seo can't remember anything beyond Kang Chi stabbing Lord Park.
  • Green Thumb: Kang-chi figures out he can do this later on to contrast with Wol-ryung, who post resurrection is a Walking Wasteland.
  • Happy Flashback: During the festival, Chung-jo flashes back to last year's festival, when Kang-chi, Tae-seo, and herself were still together, their parents were both alive, and the Inn still belonged to the family.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Gon qualifies for the trope. He's shown to be lethally skilled at swordplay and combat and singlehandedly can take down several trained men even with a critical injury. It's also implied that he has loved Yeo-Wool for a long time, possibly since they were adolescents. Not only does she fall in love with Kang-Chi and none-too-subtly lets him (Gon) know through her actions, but she dies eventually. Gon's personal line as he stood alone while Yeo-Wool died was perhaps his most emotional moment in the series, coupled with the fact that the usually stoic Gon is actually crying.
    Gon: (while shedding a tear) "Yeo-Wool asshi...!" (Lady Yeo-Wool in Korean)
    • Even more heartbreaking, Gon wasn't even present when Yeo-Wool died, but his crying was implied to be simultaneous with her death. This means that on some level, Gon can tell when Yeo-Wool's life is slipping away even while not being in her presence. As fantasy genres often raise a notion about almost telepathic communication with a close friend, this is enough to show just how close Yeo-Wool and Gon were.
  • Idiot Hero: Kang Chi, full stop.
  • Indy Ploy:Kang Chi tends to get things done by throwing things in on the fly.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Turns into quite a facial beating for Kang Chi when he implores a brainwashed Tae Seo to look at him, and break out of Gwan-joon's brainwashing. Fortunately, it works, especially for the latter's case.
  • I Owe You My Life: Ma Bong-chul might be a gangster who extorts the poor, but after Kang-chi saves his life he knows what is due and becomes loyal to him.
  • Kid with the Leash: Yeo-wool, kind of. Just having her around allows Kang-chi to remain human, whether or not he has his bracelet on.
  • Korean Drama: The historical type with fantasy elements.
  • Loophole Abuse: Lampshaded by Kang-chi when he notes that promises are made among people, and he is half-human.
  • Love Triangle: Chung-jo/Kang-chi/Yeo-wool, Kang-chi/Yeo-wool/Gon... and there is Tae-seo, crushing on Yeo-wool as well...
  • The Mole: Tae-seo becomes this for the Four Masters and Admiral Lee, as Jo Gwan-woong isn't aware that he broke out of his hypnosis.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: All over Kang-chi's face when he slashes Tae-seo.
  • Nice Guy: Sung might be scared of Kang-chi, but unlike the rest of the brothers he doesn't shun him.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: After Kang-chi saves him from getting killed by Wol-ryung, Brother Kim has lunch with him. Wol-ryung kills him soon after because He Knows Too Much.
  • Not Quite Dead: Gu Wol Ryung.
    • While we're at it add Kang Chi's mom to the list.
  • Painful Transformation: According to Kang-chi, his body aches all over when he takes off the bracelet.
  • Power Limiter: The bracelet that Kang-chi wears doesn't completely restrain his powers, but it keeps him in human form.
  • The Power of Blood: Gumiho blood can heal mortal wounds in people. The downside is it's a one-and-done deal for the receiver.
  • The Power of Friendship: Supposedly, the only way to break a strong hypnosis is either the hypnotist breaks it or the hypnotized kills him. Or Tae-seo's and Kang-chi's friendship is so strong that Tae-seo breaks out of it on his own.
  • Rape as Drama: Seo-hwa's servant, and later Chung-jo.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lord Park has an entirely deserved reputation as one. When a man is caught stealing crops, Park hears him desperately plead how hungry his family is, and gifts him one bag of food to eat while another bag of crops to plant with a promise Park will buy them from him at a good rate.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Part of the plan to steal the silver from the Hundred Year Inn involves taking it right by Lord Jo while making it very blatantly obvious that it's there, but since he already made a bad call he can't investigate it.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • In the creepiest way possible. Jo Gwan-woong sees Chung-jo as a replacement for Kang-chi's mother.
    • In exchange for getting the Hundred Year Inn back, Seo-hwa asks Tae-seo to become her son, since she lost her own.
  • Scars are Forever: Kang-chi still has the scars from defending Yeo-wool as a child.
  • Spot the Thread: Tae-seo passes a loyalty test by noting that "Kang-chi" (actually a guy using an illusion) is using a sword and doesn't finish a proverb that he would have.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Wol-Ryung and Seo-Hwa...a noblewoman from a fallen family, and a Kumiho...they're put through the freaking ringer emotionally, too, but when all is said and done their love for one another is one of the most powerful forces in story.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Kang-chi's gumiho form counts as this, as it heals faster, has Absurdly Sharp Claws, and is much, much more aggressive.
  • Taking the Bullet: Yeo-wool does this to save Kang-chi from a sniper, taking a poison bullet In the Back. It ultimately kills her.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: When they're hiding in the secret safe, Kang-chi inadvertently does this to Yeo-wool. Made more awkward because a)they can't move or make a sound, and b) this is how Kang-chi finds out Yeo-wool's a girl.
  • Tomboy: Dam Yeo-wool, to the extent that getting married and becoming a housewife horrifies her.
  • Together in Death: Wol-Ryung and Seo-Hwa, after a Heroic Sacrifice on her part, results in his giving up his life to join her after a final goodbye to Kang Chi.
  • Tough Love:
    • Head Mistress Chun allows Chung-jo to be bullied and makes no attempt to defend her, so that she can learn how to deal with the world's cruelty without help.
    • Admiral Lee isn't at all nice about telling Kang-chi that if he wants people to trust him, then it's his responsibility to build that trust even if they're being unfair to him.
  • Universally Beloved Leader: Lord Park was beloved by the villagers.
  • Villain Has a Point: Wol-ryung tells Kang-chi that humanity will never accept him, so he should just give up. The way humans in general treat him, it's no wonder Kang-chi starts having doubts.
  • Villainous Rescue: Of the "Oh, Crap!, the rescuer's even worse" variety when Wol Ryung rescues Yeo Wool from some of Jo Gwan Woong's mooks for his own purposes.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sung calls out the brothers for their behavior towards Kang-chi, saying that they were all outcasts once and now they're acting like their former tormentors. It works.
  • Wham Shot: When the Japanese merchant's wife goes to bathe, we get a shot of her bare shoulders, showing Seo Hwa's scars and tattoo.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds; Upon Wol-Ryung's return, he is a monstrous, predatory demon who is interested in destroying all he can. Under that though, he is incredible pain because he knows the way he is now is wrong and he has enough of his old self to know he was once someone better, but can't remember why. He's terrified of losing the last remnants of his sanity and can't understand or recall how he got this way.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Kang Chi doubts his humanity, Admiral Lee tells him he sees many, many people acting like animals, and that Kang Chi is more human than any of them.