Thousand Years for You (2022) 请君

Summary:  A comedic love story between a three thousand year old general, Lu Yan ft Allen Ren, and Chief of the QingQuan Village, Yu Deng Deng ft Li Qin. Set in the Republic Era of China, Lu Yan was a powerful general in ancient times who worked together with the mystical Yun Xi of the Ling Zu (a mythical clan) to bring peace. He awakes to help recover Yun Xi’s magical essence currently residing in the body of Yu Deng Deng who looks surprisingly like Yun Xi. The story opens with Yu Deng Deng ordering Lu Yan to marry him for money to save her village which he accepts to uncover more about her connection to Yun Xi.

 

Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: September 15, 2022

 

Initial Rating: 7.5/10

As a Li Qin fan, I’ve been waiting for this drama for a whole year! It’s finally here! It is a surprisingly unique and refreshing story, one that is NOT based off of a book. Gasp! Those exist?  The first 6 episodes are hilariously intriguing as the handsome Lu Yan is married as the concubine to Yu Deng Deng. Her first husband? A Rooster. Gender roles are reversed to comical effect while Lu Yan tries to understand what connection Yu Deng Deng has to Yun Xi.  So far so good as a fun and easy watch. The biggest question mark has been Allen Ren using his real voice for the drama which I don’t find to be too big of a problem. Li Qin uses her real voice as well and she is much more articulate. 

It’s a unique world the story has built so far with magic infused into the story so we’ll see what surprises are in store!

 

Full review after the full drama airs

Karen

 

 

 

Checkmate (2022) 民国大侦探

Summary:  Set in Republican Era (民国) China between 1911-1949, we follow the lawyer turned detective Si Tu Yan (ft Hu Yi Tian 胡一天) and his wealthy police best friend Lu Shao Chuan (ft Zhang Yun Long 张云龙) solve mysterious murders and crimes in the northeast city of Harbin 哈尔滨. They, along with an insightful young woman Zhou Mo Wan (ft Zhang Xin Yu 张馨予) and local reporter Jin Qi Ming (ft Xuan Yan 宣言), comprise of a motley crew to solve some of the trickiest murders in the city. Checkmate is billed as the first Chinese adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple stories.  

 

Total Episode Count: 24

Initial Airing Date: Aug 10, 2022

 

Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Initial thoughts [12 episodes]: This is a pretty serviceable adaptation of the adventures of Agatha Christie’s Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple. It reunites Hu Yi Tian (胡一天) and Zhang Yun Long (张云龙) back together again after their surprising 2020 hit My Roommate is a Detective (民国奇探). They bring back they easy bromance and partnership back in this drama which makes it easy to draw the viewer in. The show will cover 8 “murders” or mysteries, which is quite brisk for a 24 episode show. That averages to around 3 episodes per mystery. The first mystery is an adaptation of perhaps one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. I won’t spoil the rest of the mysteries but it’s fun to guess which of the stories ties to the corresponding Agatha Christie mystery. 

The setting of Harbin 哈尔滨 during the Republican Era 民国时期 adds a lot of unique flavor to the drama.  Being in the northeast part of China, Harbin had a mélange of Manchu, Han and European influences. The Russian influences are especially obvious in the city’s architecture.  This backdrop allows for some of the more “Western” mysteries to unfold in this multicultural city.  

So far, it’s a fun breezy watch. The acting is good, the stories are gripping (I mean, it’s Agatha Christie so I don’t think they will be too bad), and the fashion is gorgeous. Check it out if you enjoy some murder mysteries!

 

Full review after the full drama airs

Cathy

 

 

Love Between Fairy and Devil (2022) 苍兰诀

Summary:  Set in a fantasy land, Xiao Lan Hua (ft Esther Yu) as a kind-hearted young orchid fairy with limited powers and no real name. (Xiao Lan Hua literally just means little orchid). She watches over the written fates of all beings. One day, she accidentally realized that her secret love, the powerful Chang Heng (ft Zhang Ling He) will be in danger and rushes over to protect him. This results in her a life changing encounter with Dong Fang Qing Cang (ft Dylan Wang), the powerful leader of the Yue (Moon) clan who had been locked away for 30,000 years.  This interaction changes the fates of all three individuals. 

 

Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: Aug 7, 2022

 

Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Initial thoughts [18 episodes]:  This is a romance fantasy drama that is exceedingly cute. It’s actually quite popular right now only 6 days after airing and is pushing Love Like the Galaxy and Immortal Samsara onto the backburner for many viewers, myself included.  The relationship between Xiao Lan Hua and Dong Fang Qing Cang is quite natural and Dylan Wang does a pretty good job portraying the unemotional yet powerful leader of the Moon Clan who struggles with his budding emotions for Xiao Lan Hua. It’s not like this drama doesn’t fall into tropes but the first couple of episodes are hilarious because this weak orchid fairy swaps bodies with the all powerful Moon Clan leader and after the switch back, Dong Fang Qing Can realizes that every injury and emotion Xiao Lan Hua feels, he feels himself. Thus starting an amusing series of events where Dong Fang Qing Cang has to protect Xiao Lan Hua from herself while Dong Fang Qing Cang has to surpress his frustration at being tied to someone as weak as Xiao Lan Hua.  Luckily, she’s super sweet and treats him as an equal.

Final Rating: 7/10

An above average drama for this genre, Love Between Fairy And Devil started strong in the first half but was unable to carry the momentum towards the ending. That does not detract from the strong main trio of characters and an even more interesting secondary plot between the ill-fated teacher/student pair, Chi Di Nv Zi and Rong Hao. Wonderful special effects and a great original soundtrack allows me to see why this drama is loved by fans.

The Love Between Fairy and Devil or 苍兰诀 was THE breakout hit of the summer. After airing with little fanfare, the drama reached a peak popularity index during its finale of 10500. For context, most dramas would love to break 9,000 but this drama did so quite easily and continued to peak. The online platforms don’t release viewership stats anymore so it’s difficult to see exactly how many views or hits the drama has but it’s clear from the number of trending topics on weibo that this was a popular drama.  Even now, days after the finale, there are many trending topics on weibo for the drama and the main stars, especially the main male lead 王鹤棣 skyrocketed in popularity. His weibo followers increased dramatically and there’s been plenty of fan service and interaction between the main stars. 

Dong Fang Qing Cang 东方青苍


Played by 王鹤棣 or Dylan Wang – Leader of the moon clan or 月族. In this instance, instead of a demon clan, they’re called the moon clan. Imprisoned for more than 30,000 years at the hands of his foe, Chi Di Nv Zi. He is currently the most powerful being across the land.

Xiao Lan Hua 小兰花


Played by 虞书欣 or Esther Yu – She is a little orchid flower who doesn’t have a real name. She is a very young flower of just 1,500 years old and she lives in 司命殿 where she helps watch over all of the fates of each being. She is a member of the fairy clan but doesn’t have many friends because she is rather weak.

Chang Heng 长珩


Played by Zhang Ling He 张凌赫 – he is the younger brother of the current Fairy clan leader and newly named general or zhan shen 战神 of the fairy clan. He is betrothed to Xi Shan Shen Nv 息山神女 a powerful mythical woman who has gone missing for 30,000 years and so their marriage has stalled. 

Chi Di Nv Zi 赤地女子


Played by Guo Xiao Ting 郭晓婷. Another general from the fairy clan, she sacrificed herself in a ferocious battle between the fairy clan and the moon clan in order to seal away Dong Fang Qing Cang and also freeze 100,000 moon clan soldiers. She is the teacher of Rong Hao

Rong Hao 容昊


Played by 徐海乔 – Fairy clan member – student of 赤地女子 and best friend of 长珩. He was devastated at the loss of his teacher and has sought for the last 30,000 years to bring her back and now has a two different identities

 

 

 

Plot Overview:

Dong Fang Qing Cang was banished to a magical tower as a result of his fight against the powerful 赤地女子 from the fairy clan. For many thousands of years, the moon clan and the fairy clan fought against each other and their lives are entwined with hatred towards each other because both sides have lost loved ones in the ensuing battles.

赤地女子managed to seal away 东方青苍 by sacrificing herself and for 30,000 years there has been peace in 仙族 or the fairy clan as the Lord of the Moon clan has been banished. Fighting between the two clans has since ceased but the moon clan fell into chaos as different factions sought to gain control of the clan after 东方青苍‘s demise. 

With the big picture conflict out of the way, we are introduced to 小兰花. She is just a weak little orchid flower that watches over the fates of each being in her lonely hall of 司命殿。 Her teacher left 1000 years ago to travel leaving the young xiao lan hua all by herself.  She watches over the fates that are written on leaves of the fate tree which she helps to protect and repair if ever there is damage to them. She does have someone she likes though. The handsome 长珩仙君 or just 长珩. 长珩 saved 小兰花 when she was very young and therefore she wants to thank him personally for helping him and has always nursed this bit of gratitude or infatuation towards him. 

Her and 长珩’s fates should have been entwined but one day, when 长珩 and the other fairy lords worked together to try to reinforce the magical tower that confined 东方青苍,小兰花 foresaw that this could be the end for 长珩 due to her powers working with fates so she steps in to protect him. She blocks a blast from the tower meant for 长珩 and while he is protected, she is instead sucked into the tower.

Once in the tower, 小兰花 unwittingly restores the powerful 东方青苍 back to his human form, with a kiss no doubt, where he was before just wisps of consciousness and in the process swaps bodies with him. This is utterly unacceptable for 东方青苍 because he cannot be trapped in the body of someone so weak and feeble as 小兰花 while 小兰花 is having a blast having the enormous power of the leader of the moon clan. 东方青苍 manages to swap bodies again with 小兰花 to regain his former strength and believes all he has to do is kill 小兰花 and there will be no issues with him escaping the tower and reclaiming power again. But the twist he finds out is that the two are now bound together by some mysterious power. Any time 小兰花 is hurt, he will suffer the same injury on his body. And her emotions? He will feel them as well. If she cries, he’ll start crying. If she’s scared, he’ll start feeling scared. 

Ultimately, 东方青苍 escapes from the tower with 小兰花 and return to her place of residence and hilarity ensues. The cold, calculating and menacing 东方青苍 is subject to being 小兰花‘s personal caretaker because he has to nurse her back to health after their foray in the tower. The reason being is that 东方青苍 has uncovered the fate of a woman named 谢婉卿 that looks to be related to his mortal enemy, 赤地女子. He needs 小兰花 to repair this fate so he can see exactly what he needs to do to recover his mortal enemy so that he can release the 100,000 moon clan troops that were frozen in time and then destroy the fairy clan. But 小兰花 doesn’t care too much for restoring the fate and is too weak anyways. She also totally mishears 东方青苍’s name and just calls him 大强 rather than his real name which if she knew who he was she would have been too scared to interact with him. After all, 东方青苍’s name is known throughout the land.  But because she thinks he’s just 大强 and is a fairy who has been imprisoned for some past wrong and has nowhere to go, she takes him in. 

Thus the relationship between the most powerful being 东方青苍 and the weak 小兰花 begins. 东方青苍 has been stripped of his emotions in order to earn his strength but through his interactions with 小兰花, he is touched by her kindness, optimism, determination and thoughtfulness. He slowly starts to regain some emotions which, in this drama, is represented by a tree. At the beginning of the drama, it is a frozen tundra with no leaves whatsoever. After interacting with 小兰花 something changes in him. 

While he is experiencing some changes, we learn that 长珩 actually also likes 小兰花. He is betrothed already to someone already but after meeting 小兰花 in a chance encounter has grown attracted to this kind hearted orchid flower. She offered to protect him while no one has ever done that for him. Yet he is very respectful of his feelings towards her because he knows he is betrothed and any affection he shows towards 小兰花 could mean her demise which he does not want and does his best to protect her despite his obvious interest. 

All of this comes to a head with 小兰花 is revealed to have a different past, one different from the other fairies of the fairy clan. Despite 东方青苍 saying he does not care for 小兰花, he steps in to protect her in front of the entire fairy clan court who accused her of being a spy from the moon clan and was about to sentence her to death. Using his unique brand of fire power which turns blue, he pushes back against the fairy clan lords and takes 小兰花 with her. 长珩 steps in to try to take 小兰花 back but is easily defeated by 东方青苍. With this one battle, the future relationship between these three individuals becomes clear. 

That’s the general recap of the first 10 episodes or so. The story goes on to develop the relationship between these three individuals and also a stint into the mortal realm as they search for more answers about the fate of 赤地女子。 

 

 

 

Review: 7/10

One of the better romance dramas of this genre that is a fun breezy watch with some memorable moments. I have a more tempered opinion of the drama than perhaps what weibo and other fans think though I can understand the hype, especially for younger fans.  

The drama really shone in the first half, particularly at the beginning when 东方青苍 was figuring out how to interact with 小兰花. Episode 9 where 东方青苍 steps in to protect 小兰花 is one of the most badass scenes of the summer. There are plenty of cute scenes and belly laughs in the first half especially considering what the all powerful 东方青苍 is subject to in order to help 小兰花 who has no clue how to protect herself and is somehow always getting hurt. 东方青苍 and 长珩 in particular have two well written parts that make you naturally really like them as these powerful members of the moon clan and fairy clan respectively. I do believe that the two main male leads 王鹤棣 and 张凌赫 have bright futures ahead of them and were the stronger of the trio compared to 虞书欣’s 小兰花.  王鹤棣 in particular was able to showcase his acting range in this drama in ways that are subtle yet very apparent, though I don’t think he as handsome as some of the other male actors out there.

The special effects are quite good and in my opinion has come a long way for fairy romance dramas though some of the wire work for the actors could be improved. The original soundtrack especially the title song called 寻一个你 by 刘宇宁 is an instant classic and I’ve been listening to it on repeat for the last several weeks now. 

I personally really enjoyed the secondary storyline between 赤地女子 and her pupil 容昊. Let me just take a second to discuss the actors for 赤地女子 and 容昊. Both of them you could say won this year with two amazing roles in two different dramas. 赤地女子‘s actress 郭晓婷 has been on the small screen for many years, playing notable roles in both Chinese Paladin 3 as Xiao Tu Dou and also Startling With Each Step as 敏敏格格 all when she was under 18. She is a strong actress but hasn’t had good luck in notable roles for a while. But this year, she’s killed it with her role here in this drama for 赤地女子 and also in her role as 顺德仙姬 in 与君初相识 or A Blue Whisper. She is absolutely crazy but stunningly beautiful in A Blue Whisper and in this drama, portrays the ill-fated mortal woman 谢婉卿 with jaw-dropping grace. It’s hard to take your eyes off her when she is on screen. 容昊 is played by 徐海乔 who we just saw as 欧阳旭 in 梦华录 or A Dream Of Splendor where he was lauded by fans for his fanatic portrayal of the man that betrayed 赵盼儿 and then applauded him in his role here for the faithful student that suffered for thousands of years and betrayed his soul to find ways to bring his teacher back to life. For me, their storylines were the most intriguing part of the drama despite it not having too much screen time. 

But unfortunately, the drama does falter towards the end with convoluted conflicts and eye-rolling cliches and I docked 0.5 from my initial score because the drama lost momentum. 

 

So, if you’re looking for a fun and cute drama to watch with handsome lead actors, this is certainly a drama to try out at least for the first 20 episodes or so.  It is not a classic drama but it was an enjoyable watching experience. 

 

Karen

 

Love Like The Galaxy (2022) 星汉灿烂

Summary: Cheng Shao Shang (ft Zhao Lu Si 赵露思), daughter of brave generals, was left at home to be raised (neglected) by her grandmother and aunt while her parents fought on the battlefield. The result is that despite Shao Shang’s natural intelligence, she was not raised as a “proper” young girl – one who can read and write or knows proper etiquette. Ling Bu Yi ft Wu Lei 吴磊, is a hardened young general raised in the Imperial Family but bears a terrible burden. The two paths cross multiple times and a romance emerges. Based on a book of the same name and by the same author as The Story of Ming Lan

 

The drama is split into two parts. Part 1 is 星汉灿烂 Xing Han Can Lan (27 episodes) and Part 2 月升沧海 Yue Sheng Cang Hai (29 episodes).

 

Initial Airing Date: July 2022

 

This is a SPOILER FREE review

 

Initial Rating: 6.7/10

Initial thoughts [after 30 episodes]: The drama is… just fine.  I binged the first 18 episodes over a weekend which tells me it’s at least palatable.  The older cast is more enjoyable to watch than the younger ones particularly those outside of the main pair of Zhao Lu Si and Wu Lei.  Perhaps my view is colored by the more muted tones and grayer skies of the production after enjoying the brighter hues in A Dream of Splendor.  Zhao Lu Si is fine in her role as Cheng Shao Shang but it seems like she plays similar characters in other dramas. Wu Lei as the handsome general is far more intriguing though his screen time in the first half of the drama was rather limited. There are some genuinely funny moments in the drama yet also a number of unreasonable scenes which I did not know needed to be there. I do think part 2 of the drama is picking up to be more intriguing than part 1.

 

Overall thoughts [Full Drama]: Though the world building of this drama is top notch and you can tell the production value is high, I actually found that the drama was perhaps 10 episodes too long. I struggled to get through the end of the drama and lost my eagerness to “chase” it.  The drama tries to stuff too many genres into the entire show and also force too many “sweet” moments between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi. Wu Lei’s Ling Bu Yi has the more interesting backstory and the older generation of actors (parent age and above) captivated me more than the younger ones.  I am probably on the lower end of the spectrum here with my rating as Dou Ban currently gives the drama a 7.5.

 

Story: Set in a fictional world that is heavily influenced by the Han dynasty, the young Cheng Shao Shang meets her birth parents who are both generals in the army after being off to war for her entire life. Shao Shang, despite being naturally intelligent, was neglected by her grandmother and aunt in her education. This results in Shao Shang being rather “wild” and interested in crafting various contraptions. Upon the return of her mother and father as well as her two older brothers, she finally has a family again but her mother cannot accept that her daughter is not what she envisioned her daughter would be. Clashes arise between mother and daughter while Shao Shang is also bullied by ladies in the capital for not being a proper lady. Meanwhile, Shao Shang crosses paths with three men. 1) Ling Bu Yi, the young and accomplished general raised by the Emperor and Empress. 2) Lou Yao, the young son of an unfavored branch of the powerful Lou family. And 3) Yuan Shan Jian, the handsome and extremely intelligent scholar turned court minister.  Shao Shang’s bravery and unwavering tenacity to stand up for herself attracts these men and help her become more than an educated woman of the Cheng family. 

What I liked:

No Drama Between the Empress and the Consort

The relationship between the Empress and Consort Yue is one of the sweetest palace relationships I’ve ever seen. The relationship between these two women and the emperor, Wen Di, is based on the true story of Emperor Guang Wu of Han or Liu Xiu 刘秀 and his original wife, Yin Li Hua or 阴丽华 and the subsequent woman he married as his Empress, Empress Guo or 郭圣通. In the drama, Consort Yue was originally married to Wen Di but had to be demoted to role of Consort in order for Wen Di to marry Empress Xuan due to her family’s military backing. In any other palace drama, as well as the drama that depicts this relationship called Xiu Li Jiang Shan (秀丽江山), the Empress is overbearing and evil.

But in this drama, Empress Xuan is kind hearted, accepting, and unjealous. She treats Consort Yue with respect and understands that she’s the third party to Consort Yue’s relationship with Wen Di. Empress Xuan didn’t want to marry the Emperor but her uncle forced this marriage so she had to comply. Consort Yue also does not blame or disrespect Empress Xuan in any way. On the contrary, she views Empress Xuan as her older sister. The two women respect each other and knows each other’s place in the palace. While they don’t actively interact with each other, there is no animosity. That is honestly just so sweet and heartwarming. The Emperor, to his credit, does not mistreat the Empress despite loving Consort Yue. The respect and care expected between a husband and wife is afforded to Empress Xuan. The Emperor also does not have any other women in his palace, which again, is rare. 

The Emperor

My favorite character in the entire drama has to be Wen Di or Emperor Wen. Played by Bao Jian Feng 保剑锋, I’ve watched him in dramas almost my entire life so I have a soft spot for him. He also just finished his turn as Emperor in A Dream of Splendor right before this drama aired. In this drama he is so hilarious in his double standard for his adoptive son Ling Bu Yi vs anyone else. Other youths causing havoc due to love interests? They have to be severely punished! Oh, Ling Bu Yi was out with a girl? Oooo that’s not a problem at all. Let me find out everything about her and help match them together!  He is literally all of us watching the gossip or your favorite couples getting together. And then when he’s trying to share his thoughts with the Empress or Consort Yue, both of them push him out for being too annoying.  Hahahaha.  He is fair and kind, as I mentioned earlier, to the women in his life, and cares deeply for the loyal brothers that helped push him to the throne.

What I didn’t like:

Too many genres; 

My primary gripe with the drama is that it tried to be too many things at once and stuff too many characters into the drama which led to a final result that falls flat I wish it stuck to one or two genres and did them well or else gave similar screen time to each genre.  Part 1 is primarily about the family feuds for Shao Shang, particularly between her own mother, and also with other ladies in the capital after Shao Shang is brought out to society. After 20 episodes, then it shifts gears into a palace drama for a couple of episodes, and then almost a detective drama where Shao Shang has to help solve a number of plots, and then shifts into a political drama in the later 30+ episodes. It also turned from being a rather light hearted drama to one of immense pain and despair. Lots of tears were shed in the last 10 episodes of the drama. The pacing was just not there for me. It also made me struggle to care that much about the relationship building scenes between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi. Often times those scenes were placed to add “cuteness” to their relationship but hampered down the pace of the drama. In my view, those scenes were added just so people can see them as a cute couple. Yet it was often times very forced and not too natural. 

Additionally, from what I described, the scale of the drama went from being very micro to then impacting the fate of the entire empire.  I don’t think this would have been a problem if the pacing of the drama was better. The drama spent way too much time on Shao Shang’s struggles and growth period at home that made the challenges later on in the palace a little jarring.  Though the drama tries to bring everything back at the end, I almost didn’t care. I really do think the drama should have only been 40 episodes long and cut out some of the fat.

Too many characters

Because the drama moves through so many different genres, there are also many characters introduced in it. This meant that some of the antagonists didn’t really have much impact. I can’t exactly put my finger on it since in other dramas we’ve had many characters survive for only a few episodes but they had more “oomph” to it. In this drama, Ling Bu Yi, the main male lead, had a number of women be infatuated with them and would make life difficult for Shao Shang to which I’m like, who are you again? Why are you back in this drama? Many times it’s just as a plot device to further along an interaction between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi and then once done, that character is discarded and only to resurface when needed/convenient for story purposes again. Often times that resurfacing doesn’t entirely make sense. (Looking at Madame Luo).  

The end conflict is similar. It takes X many years for some people to resurface again. But for what? The motivations are flimsy and almost too easy or coincidental. 

 

Other observations: Is it just me or did this entire drama film when it was raining. In so many scenes, the floors are sopping wet which results in many of the women’s dresses being coated in dark water or dirt. Not that THAT’s an issue but the overall color palette of the drama is so much darker than I prefer it to be. I guess that’s an intentional choice because of the darker themes later on in the drama. That’s just something I noticed.

Let me know what you think!

Karen