嫣语赋 乔欣 徐正溪

The Autumn Ballad (2022) 嫣语赋

Summary: Qiu Yan ft Qiao Xin is the unloved daughter in Qiu household who goes toe-to-toe with the cold faced duke, Liang Yi as she fights for her life and happiness using her own wit and in the face of antiquated views of society. 

 

 

Overall rating: 7/10

Overall thoughts: This is one of those rare dramas where the plot/screenplay outshines the production and acting. While I like Qiao Xin who does her best in this drama, I feel like this drama would have been even more popular with someone better suited to historical dramas.  Watch the show for the plot, not the acting…

 

Full review to come!

-Karen

 

 

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City of Streamer (2022) 流光之城

Summary: Feng Shi Zhen, starring Jing Tian, takes up the guise of a private tutor to the Rong family children on her quest for revenge against the Rong family for burning down her home. There, she meets the handsome Rong Jia Shang ft Xu Wei Zhou. 

She uses spy craft learned from the mysterious Meng Xu An ft Jing Chao at the Rong family mansion to uncover the truth about the fire that changed her life. 

As the mysteries unfold, Feng Shi Zhen finds the secrets of her past that come to a head in her feelings with Rong Jia Shang. 

 

 

 

Drama rating: 7/10

Overall thoughts:  An adequate romance drama based off a novel of the same name. Jing Tian’s Feng Shi Zhen is a well thought out, independent and capable woman that stands her ground in the face her handsome and wealthy student, Rong Jia Shang. The drama shines in its intriguing plot that twists and turns. It doesn’t shy away from many realities of women at that time, some hard hitting subjects while also espousing key ethical values. The drama suffers from a somewhat slow pace, its voice dubbing and wooden acting, particularly from side characters.

 

I’m very biased now when it comes to Jing Tian after her renaissance in Rattan last year which I adored. After she changed how she drew her eyebrows, her beauty shot through the roof so I immediately decided I should chase this drama.  The reality is that City of Streamer flew under the radar while it was airing back in February but I think it deserves some more recognition. There was not much promotion for Liu Guang Zhi Cheng 流光之城  though I consider it a sleeper drama of modest success. While everyone was blasting Mirror: A Tale of Twin Cities, 镜*双城 which was an elaborate production by Tengxun, City of Streamer ended up with overall more online viewership even though it’s obvious it was a smaller production. The reason being is the overall better story and refreshing characters. 

I binged the first 12 episodes over a weekend and then binged the book in like 2 days. The drama follows the book rather closely which is to its benefit because the conflict in the book is well thought out and the characters contained refreshing personalities. However, this does mean I didn’t feel there was as much “acting” for many of the side characters because dialogue carried much of the story in the show.  The voice dubbing also made the characters rather wooden which was my primary gripe. 

 

Story

Jing Tian 景甜 plays Feng Shi Zhen 冯世真, a 23 year old woman from Shang Hai during the Republic of China era (think 1920s/30s). She is a brilliant woman with many skills including English and Math. She is hired by the Rong family, the wealthiest family in Shanghai at the time, to tutor the three Rong family children. They include the 20 yr old Rong Jia Shang 容嘉上 played by the handsome 许魏洲 and his two younger sisters, Rong Fang Hua and Rong Fang Hua. 

While seemingly a simple tutor of no background, Feng Shi Zhen’s real motive in going to the Rong household is to uncover the truth about why her home was burned to the ground. Evidence of the fire points to the head of the Rong family, Rong Ding Kun.  Helping her on this endeavor to seek revenge is a mysterious man named Meng Xu An (ft Jing Chao) who trained Feng Shi Zhen in spy craft and manipulation after the fire. 

Feng Shi Zhen’s task is to make Rong Jia Sheng develop feelings for her to better help her gather intel while living in the Rong family mansion. While she is successful in securing his attention, she is also surprised by his earnestness and good heart. Even though he comes from a wealthy family, his aspirations are in the sky and to be a pilot. Unfortunately, despite his feelings for Feng Shi Zhen, he is caught between his feelings for her while faced with an engagement to a powerful woman and a relentless ex-girlfriend. 

Meanwhile, the closer Feng Shi Zhen gets to understanding why Rong Ding Kun caused the fire in her neighborhood, the more she realizes that Rong Ding Kun’s past is interconnected with hers. This connection was known by Meng Xu An who had been using Feng Shi Zhen to enact his own revenge. As the story unfolds, the relationship between Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang also go for a turbulent ride as they are faced with possibly irreparable differences. 

 

 

 

What I liked: First of all, in this drama (and in real life), the woman is older than the man. Woooo. I feel like that’s been a trend gaining steam in Chinese media right now but a thoroughly enjoyed the relationship that unfolded where Rong Jia Shang was the one who was acting impulsively and primarily by emotions vs Feng Shi Zhen who was calculating pretty much each step of their initial interactions. This is such a difference from any number of romance dramas we’ve seen where it’s the opposite. 

Furthering this thought, while Feng Shi Zhen ultimately did start developing feelings for Rong Jia Shang, she was very clear headed in not accepting his feelings for very practical reasons. He’s the eldest son of the lavishly wealthy Rong family; he cannot decide who he chooses to marry because his marriage is a business contract. And indeed, just as he is declaring his love to Feng Shi Zhen, in the next beat, he’s getting engaged to the wealthy Du Lan Xin.  Feng Shi Zhen knows what she wants in a relationship which is not to be someone’s interest for a fleeting moment but since Rong Jia Shang cannot give her that, she rejects him numerous times.  Every time she does, I’m like YAS, make him work for it! 

What I also appreciated was why the feelings between the two main characters started developing, especially on Feng Shi Zhen’s side. It’s clear that even though Rong Jia Shang is wealthy and could have anything he wanted in the world, he has a ethical boundary that he will not cross. After he discovers that his father crossed many boundaries to amass the wealth they’ve enjoyed, he actively works to undo all of it even at the cost of his money and status in Shanghai. Why wouldn’t someone like Feng Shi Zhen be attracted to a man with that sense of justice. Both of these characters are family oriented and capable in their own right and as the story progresses, why their paths crossed became clear. 

 

The character that I enjoyed the most though in this drama is Meng Xu An who is played by Jing Chao. All I can say is, damn Jing Chao. He is HOT in this drama. He plays a more mature and calculating man who is also fabulously wealthy but tortured by the trauma his sister endured at the hands of Rong Ding Kun (Rong Jia Shang’s father). Because of the hardships he suffered growing up, he became this manipulative person who used Feng Shi Zhen from the beginning to get back at Rong Ding Kun. The book made it more clear that the way he used Feng Shi Zhen was rather despicable -he thought Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang were siblings and wanted them to have an incestuous relationship as revenge. In the drama, they cut that knowledge from him to make him not as bad. 

In the drama, whenever Meng Xu An walks into the room, he has this level of swagger and confidence about him that you cannot help but draw your eyes to him. While I do think Xu Wei Zhou is handsome, it’s a matter of taste. It’s almost as if you’re comparing Tom Holland and George Clooney. Both handsome men but have different styles. 

In any case, a number of fans are sad that Feng Shi Zhen didn’t end up with Meng Xu An, and just by looks and stature alone I completely see why, but Feng Shi Zhen and Rong Jia Shang both have ethical boundaries they will not cross which make them a better match based on values. Meng Xu An does not have those ethical boundaries which means that no matter how attracted he is towards Feng Shi Zhen, she will not give him that kind of reciprocation. 

 

What I didn’t like: Maybe because the drama followed the book so closely so that after I read the book I didn’t feel as much intrigue or suspense for the drama but the drama definitely felt contained. It’s not a drama where you need to go back to watch it multiple times like we have done for The Story of Ming Lan or Empresses in the Palace to understand the underlying plots that unfolded. Instead, the book and the drama does a great job in uncovering everything that is needed so I don’t feel like I need to go back to rewatch it. 

I do attribute some of that to the wooden acting of many of the side characters and also Xu Wei Zhou, the male lead. I think he’s very attractive no doubt, but when compared to Meng Xu An, there’s just not as much depth. I also don’t think Feng Shi Zhen as a character had much to “act” especially when compared to say Rattan. Most of these characters were just “there”, moving along with the plot.

Some of the woodenness actually came from the voice dubbing. Usually, voice dubbing is there to evoke more emotion but I for some reason often felt like I was just listening to someone read a script so it did take me out of the drama quite a bit.  

 

Ultimately, I liked the drama for what it was. It was a fun and fair romance drama to watch. I was not rolling my eyes at what the female lead was doing for the lead as I did in Novoland Pearl Eclipse and also some other dramas we’ll talk about which is already a low bar. Thus I give this drama a 7.

 

-Karen

Rev

 

雪中悍刀行》新剧照:张若昀变俊美,“姜泥”为“李淳罡”撑伞- 时尚资讯(娱乐新闻网)

Sword Snow Stride (2021) 雪中悍刀行

Summary: Xu Feng Nian 徐凤年 (starring Zhang Ruo Yun 张若昀) has the reputation of being a playboy and the humiliation of Northern Liang as he does not know martial arts and is thought of as an idiot. However, in reality, he is extremely intelligent and understands the burdens he has as the eldest son of the Prince of Bei Liang.  

 

The drama follows Xu Feng Nian’s journey across the empire to protect is family and his territory as he combats threats from all sides. Based on a book of the same name, this drama introduces a new and interesting world of mythical creatures, political intrigue and masterclass fighters.

 

 

 

Overall rating: 8/10

Overall Thoughts One of the most enjoyable dramas and possibly the highest viewed drama on Tencent of 2021, breaking 60 0million views. I do not think it AS good as Joy of Life (Qing Yu Nian) from 2019, but it is still a fun binge. Zhang Ruo Yun does a stellar job of portraying Xu Feng Nian in all of his facets – the homeless wanderer, the playboy and the heir apparent to the territory of Liang. The large cast of characters that Xu Feng Nian meets on his journey also add various shades of color to this interesting trip. The biggest gripes have been the martial arts sequences which is laughable compared to its older contemporaries and also the main female lead, but on the whole, this is a wonderful drama that combines intrigue, heart, comedy, sadness all into one compelling story

雪中悍刀行》收官,张若昀发长文告别,并透露第二季播出时间(长篇)

Story: The drama starts with Xu Feng Nian and his good friend, Old Huang, who manages horses, trying to head home after 3 years out in the world.  Though Xu Feng Nian is the son of the Prince of Liang, he is currently impoverished and dressed as a hobo. Because he doesn’t know martial arts, his travels have largely relied on his intellect, thick skin and kindness of others. On the way back, he meets the beautiful and powerful Nan Gong Pu Ye (ft Zhang Tian Ai) who helps them return back to Northern Liang borders.

Once home, he is reunited with his kind hearted but strategic father, his loving younger brother and his myriad of maids. Initially, Xu Feng Nian is reluctant to take up the mantle as the next Prince of Liang but his father, the current Prince, Xu Xiao (ft Hu Jun) explains to him the burdens that must be placed on Xu Feng Nian because he is the only one capable of protecting his loved ones and ensuring the peace that Liang soldiers fought for with their lives remains in place.

Thus begins Xu Feng Nian’s journey across the mythical Li Yang empire to grow and develop as the next Prince of Liang. 

 

What I liked:

 

雪中悍刀行》大结局:徐凤年斩杀韩貂寺,赵楷身死,金甲最可怜_李淳罡_徐龙象_母亲

Family Dynamics: Xu Feng Nian is one of 4 Xu family children. He is the oldest son but has 2 older sisters and 1 younger brother. His father is the Prince of Liang, a seasoned veteran and skilled tactician.  He is also the only Prince in the Empire that is not of the Imperial Royal family. Thus, the precarious nature of maintaining his territory.  Xu Feng Nian’s mother was a formidable swordswoman in her own right before her passing. What is fantastic in this drama is that you can feel they truly love and care for each other all in their own way, despite not all being together.

When Xu Feng Nian finally arrives back home within the territory of Northern Liang, his younger brother, Xu Long Xiang, runs miles to greet him. When greeting Xu Feng Nian after several years apart, Xu Xiao allows his son to throw objects at him to let go of his anger. Honestly, episode 2 was so funny I watched it like 10 times because Xu Xiao made a decree that when Xu Xiao sees his son, if he is beaten to death, everyone has to pretend like nothing happened.  The staff are al like “WTF” but then indeed, Xu Feng Nian chases his father around trying to beat him because he knows his dad probably made his life hell while on his travels.  Hahahahaha

A key driver of why Xu Feng Nian agrees to finally take on the title of “Prince of Northern Liang” and rule his territory is because his father reveals to him that unseen forces that have infiltrated the kingdom are pushing Xu Feng Nian’s younger brother to the throne. While Xu Feng Nian doesn’t object, Xu Xiao explains that his younger brother, who has ungodly strength, is too naive and childish. He would easily be used by others and tricked into traps. Xu Feng Nian is the only person who is intelligent enough to withstand all of the threats and schemes that are headed their way. 

I would like to think that Chinese dramas are moving in a direction where family members and siblings no longer fight each other but are instead supportive of each other’s goals. In this drama, even though each family member is apart on their own paths, they are thinking of the rest of the family and how their paths will help the other.

雪中悍刀行》播出后口碑一路滑到谷底,网友惊呼天哪- 爆料台- 娱乐新闻_明星绯闻- 明星资讯

The Journey: The drama takes us throughout the Empire of Li Yang – from Northern Liang, to Wu Dang, to Jiang Nan, to Wu Di City among many others. Along the way at each stop, there are many interesting characters that Xu Feng Nian meets that help him grow but also challenges him on his journey. Each location has its purpose and you cannot help but want to follow Xu Feng Nian on his trip. 

Particularly important are the old men that he meets. It’s a joke online that every few episodes you meet a new “lao tou” or old dude who either helps Xu Feng Nian, tries to kill him or both. They all are somehow insanely powerful. In my view, they were the MVPs of the drama. Some of these actors/characters were only on screen for an episode or two but they are all very distinct characters and quite memorable. 

The original book, from my understanding, paired Xu Feng Nian with many women so I would be remiss to not mention all of the gorgeous ladies Xu Feng Nian meets as well.  Similar to the old men, each woman has her own distinct character and style. While some are more important than others, each character I thought took full advantage of the screen time they had and added color to the overall drama.  Please enjoy the beautiful and powerful Nan Gong Pu Ye by Zhang Tian Ai below 🙂

张天爱南宫仆射《雪中悍刀行》拍摄过程中的小故事- 爆料台- 娱乐新闻_明星绯闻- 明星资讯

Everyone’s Motivations Make Sense:  Throughout the drama, you don’t meet anyone who is obviously contributing to drama because they do something stupid. There’s no miscommunication that we see in rom com dramas. Xu Xiao and Xu Feng Nian are master tacticians and strategists. They know how to plan their next moves and think several steps ahead. It’s really quite satisfying to watch as pieces fall into place based on their plans. But what’s more important is that their adversaries and allies are not stupid either. Well, some are, but not all.  Each character has their own motivations for their actions that is dependent on his or her station in life, upbringing, background and capabilities. Very few people in this drama are inherently “evil” and are driven by reasons that from his or her particular standpoint, makes absolute sense. 

That’s why it’s interesting to see how Xu Feng Nian has to work with those he meets to get them to help him with his final goal.  Because his martial arts skill is still at a nascent stage, he has to rely on the help of others and showcase his upstanding character in order to win the loyalty of those traveling with hi. It makes his title of Prince seem deserved rather than something that is just given to him because he is the son of the current Prince. 

 

What I Didn’t Like:

Jiang Ni 姜泥 – the main female lead: Sigh – what can I say. She’s the one in the middle in the picture below. Her backstory is that she is the sole surviving princess from the Empire of Shu which was destroyed by Xu Xiao and the Li Yang Empire. Xu Xiao took pity on the young girl and took her in to be raised as a maid in his household as a means to protect her. She grew up aiding Xu Feng Nian. Such an interesting backstory right? But Li Geng Xi, and I shouldn’t be too harsh because she’s still rather young, just shows off a pouty and angry face. There’s no grace and poise of a former princess in sight anywhere.

Some pushback has been that she’s been raised as a maid so of course she doesn’t have the aura of a princess. Ok fine, but can she learn to smile? Almost every scene she’s in she is frowning, or glaring, or glowering, or pouting. She’s not unintelligent and if any other woman acted her I think I would feel differently but I honestly have no idea why Xu Feng Nian would like her. To me, they have no chemistry and their relationship is largely carried by his acting. I see more sibling chemistry between the two. I’m probably also biased because when you look at Li Geng Xi’s Jiang Ni and then above at Zhang Tian Ai’s Nan Gong Pu Ye, I just want to bop Xu Feng Nian on what he’s thinking. 

 

雪中悍刀行》10大美女!张天爱比李庚希美,除《如懿传》李纯,还有孟子义_徐凤年_姜泥_微博

 

-Karen