‘Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938’ review: a foxy, funny and campy delight

Our titular gumiho is sent back in time to vanquish more supernatural evil in this absurdly fun second season

**Spoilers for Tale of the Nine Tailed season one below**

Tale of the Nine Tailed became one of 2020’s biggest K-dramas thanks to its engaging blend of fantasy, action, romance, comedy and horror. Its excellent first season told the story of a gumiho (nine-tailed fox) called Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) who renounced his duties as a mountain deity for the love of a human woman. Centuries after her tragic death, she’s reincarnated in the modern world, allowing Yeon to mend his broken heart. Through many trials and tribulations, Yeon reconnects with his soulmate, saves the world and reconciles with his anti-hero half-brother Lee Rang (Kim Bum).

Season one gave viewers a beautifully bittersweet ending, with Yeon sacrificing himself to defeat an evil serpent demon – only for ex-villain Rang to offer up his own life in exchange for Yeon to be reborn as a human. It completed a compelling redemption arc for Rang, and allowed Yeon to spend a normal, mortal lifetime with his beloved. The climax was so perfect that one could argue the show doesn’t need a second season. Nevertheless, news of the series’ return was widely celebrated by fans (as evidenced by 1938’s series record-breaking ratings). But it does beg the question, where does season two go from here?

Wisely, writer Han Woo-ri and directors Kang Shin-hyo and Jo Nam-hyung have totally changed the status quo for this sequel by offering a fresh setting and different stakes, while retaining (and accentuating) the elements of season one that made the show so compulsively watchable – namely the exciting action alongside Yeon and Rang’s heartwarming bromance. Season two instantly plunges viewers into the fray with a confused Yeon being surrounded by Japanese soldiers in 1938 Joseon. The action then flashes back to explain how the handsome gumiho got his powers back, and why he’s stuck in this time travel predicament.


As it turns out, Taluipa (Kim Jung-nan), the administrator of the Afterlife, still needs Yeon to hunt mythical creatures that are hurting humanity. To that end, he’s tasked with finding a mysterious supernatural being in a Red-White Mask (Itaewon Class’ Ryu Kyung-soo) that has stolen the Samdocheon Guardian Stone, a gem that maintains the barrier between the living and the dead. When Red-White Mask flees through a portal into the past, Yeon and his trusty right-hand fox Koo Shin-joo (Hwang Hee) pursue. Unfortunately for the foxes, this means they’re stuck in 1938, unable to return to their respective loves until they can recover the Stone.

Besides that throughline quest, their sudden appearance in the past creates a whole host of complications. They have to contend with oppressive Japanese colonisers wreaking havoc in their homeland, a myriad of demons and deities (including foreign ones that have travelled with the invaders) getting in their way, and even a stalkery mountain god named Ryu Hong-joo (The Penthouse’s Kim So-yeon) who is romantically obsessed with Yeon. That’s not even counting Yeon’s inevitable encounter with the past version of his half-brother Rang. At this point in time, Rang still hates Yeon for abandoning him, and is still a baddie leading a cadre of bandits.

If Tale of the Nine Tailed is most easily comparable to Thor (fallen god falls for a mortal, has a love-hate relationship with a mischievous and resentful half-brother), 1938 is certainly more in-line with Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. Season two revamps the franchise by leaning into what makes it fun and funny, just packed with more self-aware comedy poking fun at season one’s dramatic tropes. Undoubtedly, the series’ most hilarious moment comes early on in this second season when Yeon runs into his past self and is comically disgusted by how annoyingly broody and lovelorn he was.

In fact, season two dumps the overplayed star-crossed romance angle altogether to focus on what fans truly care about: Yeon and Rang’s squabbling bromance as they go on various adventures. Buoyed by an increased emphasis on cool action sequences – with gun fights, hand-to-hand combat, and deity-on-deity superpowered battles aplenty – 1938 offers a refreshingly different tone to its more serious first season. Lighter, sillier, breezier and brimming with campy delight, season two slyly remixes an already successful formula into an even more enjoyable package.

Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938 airs on tvN every Saturday and Sunday, and is also available to stream on Prime Video globally.


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