Mackerel Run: A review and giveaway

For various reasons (such as the frenzy surrounding the drama and its cast, one actor in particular), I’ve always thought that Boys Over Flowers was Lee Min-ho‘s first leading role.

This weekend I learned that I’ve been wrong all this time. Two years before his 2009 megahit, he was lead actor in a little-known drama called Mackerel Run.

If you have a soft spot for the dramas that few people talk about, the kind that isn’t shot on a big budget and which is helmed by actors that you’ve never heard of (during the time that the show was airing), a drama that isn’t exactly sterling in terms of writing, directing or acting but you can tell right away that it possesses heart and a can-do spirit, then I suggest checking out this 2007 youth offering.

If you’re an Lee Min-ho fan, this is also a must-watch.

In a ten-part Star Diary interview published in 2010, Lee Min-ho talks about how he felt when he was chosen to play the lead in Mackerel Run.

Originally slated to be sixteen episodes, the drama was abruptly halved. In fact, Lee Min-ho learned about the cut only two episodes before its finale, when he was working on Episode 6. The station’s decision left him heartbroken. “I guess I felt dejected because I was working so hard and they told me the show was going to end.”

I stumbled on the Star Diary interview after I had finished Episode 1 and was looking for posters of the drama. Cut from sixteen to just eight episodes? Literally chopped into two with the second half never seeing the light of day? I can’t imagine what that would do to the drama’s narrative flow and character development. I can’t imagine how disappointed Lee Min-ho must have felt. Prior to Mackerel Run, he had been hospitalized for seven months because of a serious car accident. To have auditioned so many times and to have finally landed a lead role (his beginnings remind me of Lee Jun-ki’s), and then to have the drama yanked from the air because of poor ratings?

Well, it just makes me more determined to love this drama.

Thankfully I don’t have to try very hard because Mackerel Run is just a delight for a new Lee Min-ho fan experiencing full-blown City Hunter withdrawal pangs. He is so sweet and endearing here. He also has a lot of screen time because the plot is centered on his character. That makes me a happy camper, of course.

Cha Gong-chan is eighteen years old and in his final year of high school. The school he attends is elite and accepts only the well-heeled. Gong-chan, poor and living with his mom in a small attic apartment, manages to qualify because he’s a whiz at soccer, and because the school is soccer-mad and obsessed with being No. 1 in everything.

In Episode 1 (and all my screencaps for this post are from this episode), we see the principal and Teacher Ma, Gong-chan’s form teacher, plotting to get rid of him.

The problem is not simply because our guy dislikes studying and has been merrily playing hooky. The main reason is because he scores an own goal during a key soccer match and causes the school to lose the game (and possibly the championship). That he has a very good excuse for the goal (his head was bleeding and he was practically playing blind) moves the principal not one bit; she is determined to find a way to get him expelled. Would a schoolboy brawl, supposedly instigated by Gong-chan, be a good enough reason?

Since he doesn’t care for school anyway, Gong-chan is not on his knees begging for leniency. But school suddenly becomes attractive when a new girl, Min Woon-seo, joins his class, the same girl who had caused him to almost drown in the Han River.

Playing the pretty but mysterious Woon-seo in a most understated way (the girl is all steady nerves; nothing seems to rattle her) is Moon Chae-won in her debut role.

As a youth drama, Mackerel Run seems light and deliberately cartoonish at first, with cute CG effects to make you chuckle (or roll your eyes). As Lee Min-ho says in the interview that I cited earlier, he had to make “a lot of funny facial expressions.” Overacting was a necessity, he explains, because “it suited the drama.”

The occasional overacting takes getting used to, I admit, because I’m fresh from City Hunter where his acting is one of the main reasons for my being so unabashedly in love with the drama. It floors me that his mouth is doing the same acrobatics that had me fleeing in fright from Jan-di in Boys Over Flowers.

But in the many, many scenes that call for restraint, where nothing is spoken but much is felt, Lee Min-ho nails them with what he does best: emoting with his eyes.

I also love how boyish he looks (he was nineteen going on twenty when he took on the role), and how very gangly he is. Again, I do not see Lee Min-ho here, just Cha Gong-chan, a boy who keeps getting maligned by his principal and teacher, but who remains passionate and principled about what he loves and believes in. His acting is natural and, more importantly, all heart.

I’m midway through this too-short drama (only eight episodes and each about 40 minutes). Despite its flaws (so ridiculous that two adults who are both educators should behave so viciously toward one of their own students), its themes of first love, friendship, personal growth and tenacity resonate with me. Everything is kept simple and small-scale, from the sets to the size of the cast. It’s as far removed from the sumptuous (and superficial) high-school setting of Boys Over Flowers as you can imagine.

As for the cast, besides Lee Min-ho and Moon Chae-won, two other young actors stand out for their appearance and acting.

Kwon Se-in, who plays Baek Hyun, Gong-chan’s soccer teammate and also Woon-seo’s ex-boyfriend, will make you do a double take because he looks like a cross between Jung Il-woo and Lee Jun-ki. By the way, I see from his profile that Kwon was recently in Lie to Me. Someone will have to enlighten me on what role he played since I didn’t get far enough to see him appear in the drama.

Acting as Woon-seo’s love rival is Jung Yoon-jo. Her Yoon Sae-mi is the charismatic and tough-talking class monitor who develops a crush on Gong-chan. I’m actually rooting for the two to be together because of their similar backgrounds and shared secrets. Their chemistry is quiet but undeniable; he is able to let down his guard with her whereas with Woon-seo he’s just so lovestruck and self-conscious (which makes him uber adorable, but that is beside the point; Gong-chan and Sae-mi, fighting!)

And now for the main purpose of this post.

Mackerel Run is not going to win any awards for brilliance, in any department. But as an Lee Min-ho keepsake, it’s a drama that is special because it is his first lead role. Its eight episodes, filled with laughter and warmth, allow us to see the actor when he was still an unknown with few fans. Watching this after City Hunter, it just makes me love and appreciate him more, for his humble beginnings, for his lack of airs, for persevering in spite of one setback after another.

Thus, Thundie’s Prattle would like to share this drama with you. To win one of two English-subtitled DVD sets of Mackerel Run, simply write something on Lee Min-ho. Verse or prose, even a song. Long or short, you decide, although long is preferable, haha!

In short, to stand a chance of winning Mackerel Run, you just need to write something about its lead actor. The closing date is August 22, 2011. Good luck!

76 thoughts on “Mackerel Run: A review and giveaway

  1. Fair warning…I suck at this

    Let me tell @thundie how much I love Lee Min Ho:
    Mentioning about you(esp Personal Taste)often leads to hisses from others(@nycgrl & @langdon)
    Having you as one of my ICOMYM’s cuties is not easy;
    I squirmed through your “acting” & manperm from BOF,
    Laughed at your ever so short of a pants in PT, but ALAS,
    You’ve finally won acknowledgement for your excellent performance in City Hunter..

    (Yeah,I’m an ahjumma,but I myself am surprised that I managed to write a LMH I L(ove) Y(ou) poem at 2am…(sowwy,I know it’s poorly written…brainwaves are non existence at this hour))

  2. He actually had another leading role before that in the 2006 EBS campus drama 비밀의 교정 (Secret Campus) with Park Bo-Young – although you could debate it wasn’t really a “leading” role as campus dramas by nature don’t subscribe to the leading 2+sub 2 formula of trendy dramas. Still, that’s his debut.

  3. Haha!! Kwon Se In, he was the one who played Hyun Ki Joon (KJH’s) secretary Park Hoon in Lie to Me, he’s so cute there…

  4. I saw this DVD but was hesitant to buy it cause i was unsure of the subs! So are the subs good, thundie? Thank you ^^

    • Hi chula, the English subs are pretty decent. There are occasional language and spelling errors, but these rarely impede meaning and understanding. The screencaps below give you an inkling of the quality of the subs.

      • sorry for the lateness and thank you for the caps! hmm i could tolerate the occasional errors – anything for Lee Min Ho, keke.

  5. Nothing can beat what I had to do to have a few seconds with LMH. I flew to Korea to get a chance to see him. Check out the Pink Play Concert with 2NE1 for Etude House. The one in the audience who called Lee Min Ho was me. That time the only Korean word I knew was SARANGHAE. The host was talking to me in Korean but all i said was SARANGHAE MIN HO SSHI. It was like I repeated that phrase a thousand times. I have a 40second video of it and I will treasure it forever . . .

  6. Hi! Thundie, I watched this some months ago. It was my first LMH drama, having passed up BOF despite my unni’s urging, hehe. I loved this drama and promptly shared it with my unni. Kwon Se In as Park Hoon in LTM was a delight. I didn’t realize I had already seen him in MR as Baek Hyun. Good luck to those joining the contest.

  7. This post is confusing my broken brain! I’ve never found LMH hot, and I have a theory that Korean actors get better with age (just look at Kim Byung Hun and Kim Jae Won). However, for some reason I find LMH better looking in these Mackeral Run pictures! Isn’t that backwards?

    I just spent the last ten minutes examining LMH images and he definitely looks different now, particularly in the nose and lip area. He’s either had plastic surgery or his face shape has just naturally changed a lot. I feel sad now. Maybe if he had his old nose I would love him as much as everyone else! I may have to watch this just so I can enjoy his face for once.

  8. Puhaha! Mackerel Run?!

    Who am I kidding? I watched this drama too when I was going through my LMH withdrawal soon after BOF. Doh! I feel you, Thundie!

    I too was surprised by what a cute drama Mackerel Run turned out to be. And umm, along with My School E.T., Secret Campus (mentioned by Kitteh above), and an episode or two of I Am Sam. Man, this boy (man?) played a high schooler so often! Watching them all definitely helped me get through my withdrawal.

    Hope you’re holding out okay in your City Hunter/Lee Yoon Sung/LMH withdrawal! ^^

  9. Thanks Thundie!:) I’m a Lee Min Ho fan too so I really love this post. ^^

    Although I’ve heard that he has a drama prior BOF, I didn’t know about the fate it had. It must’ve been very hard on him when he was told about his drama being sacked.😦 Oh well, now he’s a big star and I’m sure with just one smile (and probably just by walking by, lol) audience will go gaga that execs won’t be thinking of axing any show/drama he’ll be in. =))

  10. I’m not sure this is the right place for my comment, but I was delighted when you discovered Lee Min Ho. I have been following him since BOF days. He acting keeps on improving and I’m already waiting for his next drama (hopefully with the great mix of CH). I loved him in BOF, watched PT because of him, CH still has me completely freaked out.
    Severe withdrawal symptoms this weekend drove me to compile his Lee Min Hotness (one aspect of it) in one place. I wanted to reciprocate for all the great screen caps in previous posts and am hesitantly sharing my first attempt at a MV with you. Sorry for the rough edges. Hope you like it.

  11. Oh I watched this, and also watched I am Sam — you should check that out too, thundie!
    I like him better in I am Sam than in BOF. But my ultimate love is City Hunter’s Yunseong~~

  12. Hahaha! I watched this too when I was going through my Lee Min Ho phase. To be honest, I don’t even remember the storyline. Only that a very cute and young LMH was in it, along with another one of my crush – Moon Chae Won. Seeing such a young LMH made me realize that I could basically be his mother and decided to through aside my ahjumma crush – although watching the beginning of City Hunter is making me swoon.

  13. Lee Min Ho
    Oh! Lee Min Ho
    How I love you so!

    Your eyes so filled with deep emotion
    Can make me wax and wane just as the moon in its circular motion!

    I longed to watch your debut appearance
    So I searched and searched, but Mackeral Run saw me coming and hid fast away, like a man in a circus when the main theme is “disapearance”.

    Boys Over Flowers I tried to watch, but that hair of yours just turned me off!

    Personal Taste was a B movie,
    And (although I liked your acting) I wondered if it would ever work between you and me

    Then came along City Hunter
    And boy did my heart flutter!

    Week after week I would avidly watch and laugh and cry
    The day it ended I heaved the biggest sigh

    I creapt into the deep dark hole of withdrawel
    And day after day I cried until it was filled to the brim with my tears of sorrow

    Thundie’s post has eased my trauma
    And I’m hoping you’ll come back soon with another drama!

  14. Argh!!!! I have loved this Man since, Boys Over Flowers. And JUST found out that as of right now, he is half way across the country from me!!!!! Minho!!! Will I ever get to meet you!?!?!?!

    I wrote you a poem Minho….

    At first glance I thought “How cute”,
    And then your smile got me mesmorized,
    Now I’m thinking “Shoot”,
    I’m falling slowly as if in an endless fall,
    I didn’t think I’d feel this way about you at all,
    your a shining star, ball of fire in the sky,
    I grin at the thought of you as the days go by,
    I wanna meet you, I’m your number one fan,
    Everyone says that, But I’m serious, I am.
    I shake my head at the thought,
    You might be grinning ’cause its all your fault,
    I might be crazy, But your just so perfect!
    My dream guy, screaming for you was worth it,
    The way you act, the way you smile,
    how you joke around for more than awhile,
    how we like the same things,
    your like an angel without wings,
    It’s heart breaking when I see,
    that your a bit older than me,
    But your smile still takes my breath away,
    It’s gonna be like that everyday,
    I dont think it will ever change.

    • Thundie…. I was wondering, did ever go back to finishing Boys Over Flowers? I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the Minho’s/Junpyo’s Awesomeness.

      • Oh, not yet, Thatgirl. Since I’ve finished Mackerel Run, I’m going to watch Secret Campus next. Park Bo-young’s so cute in Mackerel Run even though her role was pretty small, so I want to watch Secret Campus to see more of her. And I want to watch Lee Min-ho’s movies, too. But I’ll definitely go back to Boys Over Flowers and Personal Taste when I’m done with his pre-2009 work.😀

        • I’ve pretty much seen all of Lee Minho’s dramas and Our School ET, except for I AM SAM and a TV movie special called “I Don’t Know Either” (or I think it’s AKA Get Up).
          I can’t seem to find the full episodes of I AM SAM, with good English subs, and I can’t find I Don’t Know Either with English Subs at all….
          I’d wondering if you’d have better luck at finding them, Thundie. x) If you do, can you tell me where I can find them? If its online, please tell me the site, and if not, tell me what the covers look like so I can go find it myself. Please and Thank you, Thundie.

    • Hey, wait a minute Kristal… since when did LMH become Thundie’s??? sorry, Thundie, mmm…no exclusivity, ok? hehe…

      He’s already in LA? I guess I’m already too late, even if I flew this afternoon, considering I’m on the other side of the coast. Why do they always go to LA and never to New York? Why? am I on the wrong side of the continent?

      On another note, I read somewhere that after City Hunter, LMH’s followers on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (forget what it’s called now) increased by 400,000!!! AND the show City Hunter was watched in China alone by 300 million people!!! That is almost the entire population of the franking US of A!!! It used to boggle my mind that American Idol has had 34 million viewers. Not anymore. Now I can appreciate how BIG a star Lee Min Ho is.

      • Ok, well we will just say he belongs to the WORLD then, how about that? There were more pics of him at the airport on soompi and he was looking pretty good with his sunglasses, white t-shirt and huge Louis Vitton shoulder bag. I can’t believe I actually went to the LMH thread on soompi when I NEVER even go to the forums period. City Hunter, what have you done to me?!

        I even watched like 20 mins of BOF but that was really only because you can stream it directly from netflix now and I have an account there. Boy oh Boy did EVERYONE in that show have hideous hair or what?! Who did the costumes for that?! The music is horrible too.

  15. Oh, I forgot to comment about Mackerel Run.. I was distracted there for a while (gotta be vigilant y’know)…

    Anyhoo… I am so happy to learn that aside from our LMH, this show also has two very likable actors – Moon Chae Won (whom I liked in Brilliant Legacy) and the adorable Secretary Park in Lie to Me, Kwon Se In – such a cutie and hilarious in real life too! (he was a hoot during the after show party and in the BTS) Now I really got to watch this, as in right NOW. Thanks for posting dear Thundie!

  16. i think we have the same dilemma. My attraction to him minimizes as he gets older. I was wondering also how it so, when almost all of the KDRAMA actors became handsomer and handsomer as they age. I think he needs a change of image or something?

  17. Lee Min Ho,
    A far away star I want to reach
    The soulful melody lying in my heart
    The light that shimmers in the dark
    An overflowing feeling that never ends at start

    The smile that cost my billion happy tears
    The looks that melts my heart serene
    The name that flutters the soul within
    And the gaze that spare the million girls that had seen

    In a wishful thinking I might have forget, that you were just my dream
    You felt so real that all my anxieties subside
    You served as my inspiration when the calling of lessons arrived
    Because of you I set my goals, And I know someday In a meters away
    You’ll smile at me formally:)

    Lee min ho is simply my adorable star,It’s been more that 2 years since I’ve been a fan.I’ve done such crazy things because of him, seemed like it’s not so me there wasn’t a day I wouldn’t mention his name.Making me tagged as Lee min ho’s super fan.
    I’ll continue to support him no matter what:)

  18. Months and years passed,
    Felt like there was no meaning,
    No passion for life,
    Emotions never expressed,
    Fires never so hot,
    Ice never so cold,
    Winds that never blew,
    Suns that never shone
    A life without any reason.

    Until there came a cool breeze,
    Achange of seasons,
    A twist of time,
    A new meaning,
    An undescribable feeling
    That surged through our veins.
    That was when we came to knew
    Lee Min Ho as Gu Jun Pyo
    And everything changed.

    Then one day that flower boy
    Bloomed into something elese.
    As Jeon Jin Ho
    You taught us to trust people all over again.
    You brought us smiles, laughters and even tears.
    You showed us how to forgive
    You showed us that the beauty of life
    Is that it always makes up for its bitterness.

    And just when we thought that
    The world isn’t fair and is full of corruption
    You came as the City Hunter
    And we felt the adrenaline rush in our veins
    We came to believe in the power of law
    Your hopes became our hopes
    Your smiles became our smiles,
    Your tears became our tears,
    Your fears became our fears,
    But most of all…
    Your passion became our passion.

    To sum it all up,
    No matter what race or religion,
    No matter what age or gender,
    No matter what where we are
    Or what we speak.
    Lee Min Ho breaks all those barriers that divide us
    And Unites us all by
    Making us empathize with his characters and
    Inspiring to believe and love life all over again.

    written by jmmangoes!

  19. I’ve finished the drama (watched episodes 5-8 yesterday) and the unthinkable has happened:

    Mackerel Run’s Cha Gong-chan is now officially thundie’s favorite Lee Min-ho role. City Hunter’s Lee Yoon-sung will have to be second, sorry! (But a very close second, keke.)

    Ah, no words for how much I love him in Mackerel Run. I felt so sad when the drama ended (on a high albeit bittersweet note) because I know we’ll never have that young, boyish, gangly and unknown Lee Min-ho again.

    Also, I was afraid that the last few episodes would feel rushed, choppy and altogether messy because of the sudden cut. But to my surprise and delight, those were absolutely WONDERFUL episodes, full of laughter, tears, hope and meaning. Everything wrapped up nicely. Still, I didn’t want the drama to end; I will miss Gong-chan for a long, long time.

    When the contest is over and I’ve sent the DVDs to the two winners, I’m thinking of recapping this. Should I?😀

    • YES!!!! Definitely Recap this drama!!!!! I loved Mackerel Run too!!!!


      Yes, It was a really bittersweet ending, Why the hell couldn’t they just gave Mackerel Run at least 2 more episodes to atleast end happily? xC Oh gosh!!!! The airport scene was about to kill me!!!!


      But Gong Chan isn’t my #1 though…. In the order of how much I like the character, I would say….

      1) Gu Junpyo
      2) Jeon Jinho
      3) Lee Yoon Sung (Because the GJP and JJH would fit perfectly in my life, where as YS wouldn’t…)
      4) Cha Gong Chan (He’s adorable, and also because of his boyish, gangly ways/looks.)
      5) Park Hyun Doo

    • Waahhh!!! Thundie you’re the best thanks a million…kamsa hamnida!…arigato!…salamat!…gracias!…mercie boku!…sorry so excited…can’t thank you enough hehe!

  20. Is there anywhere to download this show cause I didn’t see it in am-addiction which is where I usually get my stuff from?

  21. I know, Kristal. Am so frustrated because I can’t find it online. I went shopping for the DVD too and it’s not available either in the stores I’ve gone to. Well, I figure we can always join Thundie’s contest, but I so suck at this I’m afraid am going to lose anyway… seriously… hhhheeeelllllpppp!

    • Yeah d-addicts has a torrent of it (which is probably long dead anyways) but no subs anyways except in spanish and portuguese (did I spell that right??). ARGH! I doubt I would even be in the running on the contest either cause I haven’t written anything since frickin college and am not that creative. 😉

      I couldn’t find a dvd of it on ebay either. I thought they would at least have some cheap chinese boot like they do of everything else (though the subs might have been horrible)! Oh well, I have lots of other things on my to-watch list anyways. I didn’t need to add anything new to it.

  22. TT.TT. I’m with everyone else. I saw I Am Sam long ago (because of my TOP love) and while I thought Moses was a pretty pretty thing he still couldn’t hold a candle to my TOP flame but it did make me go check out some earlier LMH movies. And i’ve always wanted to get my hands on a subbed version of Nonstop 5 for both him and Tablo so if anyone can help a sista out I’d be much obliged.

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