My Dear Guardian (2021) 爱上特种兵 Review

Summary: Liang Mu Ze 梁牧泽 (Huang Jing Yu 黄景瑜) is a special forces captain who meets the young military doctor Xia Chu 夏初 (Li Qin 李沁) while both were abroad. Their initial meeting was unpleasant but fate places them together. Sparks fly as each does not back down but soon learn to respect each other’s passion for their chosen career. 

 

Overall rating: 7.5/10 

View this drama primarily for the cute romance between Li Qin and Johnny Huang and their dedication to their career.  Take this as a light-hearted drama only, not to be taken too seriously.

Premiering in June of 2021, I’ve been chasing this drama the last month and have been struck by how sweet Li Qin and Johnny Huang are both in the drama and outside of it. The show released soooo many behind the scenes/blooper clips many of which are on Youtube and it’s just too cute to watch the two interact.

DouBan, the popular Chinese drama ratings system, rates this drama rather poorly at only 4.4. I can see why people rate it this way but one cannot deny that this drama was incredibly popular this summer. It trended multiple times on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) and the stars, Li Qin and Johnny Huang also enjoyed a surge in popularity. The primary reason is because of the chemistry between Li Qin and Johnny Huang.

I’m a huge fan of Li Qin as I think she is gorgeous but Johnny Huang does a great job portraying a military captain. He is one of the few actors who is actually quite strong and does many of his own stunts. That adds to the believability of his role even though many of the conflicts that happen seem rather contrived. That does not detract from the fact that Li Qin and Johnny are great casting for these roles. 

 

Story: This is a rather classic story of two incredibly attractive people starting off hating each other, and then somehow ending up roommates, then pretending to be dating, and then actually falling in love. 

Episode 1 shows the resident military doctor Xia Chu getting experience abroad at a fictional place called Isaia. There, she runs into Liang Mu Ze and they get into a fight over something rather trivial. Once she returns to her hospital though, she is caught up in a terrorist attack and has to try to remain calm in this hostage situation. None other than Liang Mu Ze’s team comes into save the hostages but his good friend Tian Yong is injured. After this experience, the two develop disgust for each other as Liang Mu Ze does not think Xia Chu is a good soldier or a good doctor.

Once back in China, it just so happens that Xia Chu is stationed at a hospital and looking for a place to stay. Her mother says she has a friend who has an apartment she can stay at. Xia Chu happily agrees but once she walks into the apartment, bumps into none other than a shirtless Liang Mu Ze. They of course bicker but given Xia Chu has to head to the hospital, they let it go for the time being. Oh and Xia Chu randomly picked up a cute cat on the street so she’s moved in with her cat.

On Xia Chu’s side, she is focused on becoming an accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon but the sudden reappearance of a childhood friend, Zhuo Ran, starts creating tension in the drama.

On Liang Mu Ze’s side, he is a highly trained special ops soldier and spends most of his time at base but suffers from guilt over the death of his good friend 8 years ago. He and his team participate in uncovering the cause of the terrorist attack in Isaia as well as stopping a drug crime lord.

 

Thoughts:

Pros: This drama shines when it’s focused on the interactions between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze. Xia Chu is a hard working and intelligent doctor doing residency. She does not back down from a challenge particularly when it comes to her patients. She also is not afraid to tease Liang Mu Ze. Probably one of the funniest scenes in the show is when Liang Mu Ze bullies Xia Chu into helping him change his bedsheets and Xia Chu provides him with a full Sailor Moon set! HAHAHAHAHA.

As a Sailor Moon fan, I absolutely loved this and am quietly wondering where I can get this set for myself. Hehehe.

As the two spend more time together, they slowly develop more respect towards each other. Each is passionate about their careers as a doctor and a soldier in the Chinese military. Liang Mu Ze, in particular, trusts Xia Chu unconditionally and is always there to support her. This is probably every young woman’s dream boyfriend/husband material. Of course, though, they don’t shy away from the realities of what it means to date a soldier -lots of moving, uncertainty and even death. The first 12 episodes of this drama in particular are so sweet watching these two change their attitudes towards each other.

It is impressive to see the actors physically fit and doing real stunts in the show. It’s a different type of action compared to kungfu dramas I’ve watched and this military subject is not one I’m usually keen on viewing so it was a nice change of pace.

 

Cons: The show falls short in executing the conflict beyond the romance storylines between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze. Xia Chu’s childhood friend Zhuo Ran’s return to her life causes all sorts of issues as he is not simply a childhood friend anymore, but is involved in the criminal ring of a violent drug and crime lord. The show threads this story line into the show to try to create challenges that Liang Mu Ze’s team must face. Certainly, it gives a lot of rather cool scenes where Liang Mu Ze is a badass fighter but to me, that whole story line was annoying and a drag. There are incredibly heavy topics in this show which were quite odd to balance out with the super cute and bubbly interactions between Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze.

I could not care less about Zhuo Ran’s relationship with Mi Gu, Xia Chu’s best friend. The entire time I was thinking to Mi Gu, girl, get some self respect. Same thing with the story line of Xiao Xue, Liang Mu Ze’s cousin. The drama tried to take itself too seriously which I understand. It’s a great way to showcase the sacrifices people make as doctors and military soldiers which is admirable no doubt, but because these storylines moved beyond what was available in the book, the drama fell short in landing the impact on viewers.

 

Book differences and thoughts:

So when the drama first aired the first 8 or so episodes, I was like, OK, this drama seems super cute, let me read the book the drama was based on so I binged that. The book is actually much simpler than the story lines in the drama and it’s primarily focused on the romance between Liang Mu Ze and Xia Chu. The book I felt was a romanticized view of what a military doctor and a special force’s romance would be like.

While I just commented on how I think the added conflict in the drama could have been done better, I do think it was needed to round out the characters. In the book, I couldn’t tell why Xia Chu was a particularly good doctor which the drama actually emphasizes through her actions. I’m actually glad they gave Xia Chu more independence and the ability to hold her own, rather than being primarily focused on her relationship with Liang Mu Ze. The book also I don’t think did enough to highlight some of the true conflicts involved in being a military doctor and solider which the drama helped supplement. 

Some last thoughts – watch this drama if you want something super cute between two very attractive people where the man is actually fit enough to pick up his girlfriend. Sometimes you know it’s cliche but you just like it and that’s how I feel about this drama. There are WAY too many coincidences for this drama to work in real life but Xia Chu and Liang Mu Ze are adorable together. 

 

 

-Karen

 

 

 

The Wolf (2020) 狼殿下 Review 

The Wolf premiered in late 2020 staring Wang Da Lu 王大陆 as Prince Bo 渤王, Li Qin 李沁 as Ma Zhai Xing 马摘星 and Xiao Zhan 肖战 as Ji Chong 疾冲.

Summary: The story revolves around a young boy raised by wolves who befriends the young girl, Ma Zhai Xing, in the mountains. The two promise to trust and care for each other but a false murder accusation leads to the two young friends to separate. 

Eight years later, the young wolf boy emerges as the powerful Prince Bo, adopted son of the Emperor. The Prince and Ma Zhai Xing meet once again and try to capture magic of their childhood but kingdom rivalries and family allegiances complicate this reunion. 

 

 

Overall rating: 7.5/10 

Exceeded non-existent expectations by Wang DaLu and his chemistry with Li Qin. The soundtrack is an added bonus but be prepared with tissues and for some cliches.

There was actually quite a lot of drama surrounding this drama as it was filmed in 2017 with the now astronomically popular Xiao Zhan as the secondary love interest for Li Qin. Due to an event in early 2020 where Xiao Zhan was essentially blacklisted for a while, this drama captured its opportunity to air in late 2020 and instead of airing episode by episode as we are used to, all 49 episodes dropped at once on QQ.

Many people watched this drama because they were fans of Xiao Zhan thanks to his performance in The Untamed. I personally watched The Untamed after this drama so was not fully aware of his immense fan following and watched The Wolf because I’m a fan of Li Qin. 

I would say most people agree with me that though they watched this drama for other people, they became pleasantly surprised by Wang Da Lu’s performance as Prince Bo or Bo Wang. Ratings were mixed but viewership was quite high for the show. Wang Da Lu became an instant darling and garnered many invitations to performances and reality shows. This was certainly a highlight of his career.

Why you should watch this:

  • Chemistry between Wang Da Lu’s Prince Bo and Li Qin’s Ma Zhai Xing. 
    • Wang Da Lu in particular does a phenomenal job portraying a harden young man with the wild side of being raised by wolves but softens when he’s with his love, Ma Zhai Xing
  • You’re into cute romance tropes with a sprinkle of betrayal and country allegiances
    • The episodes where Ma Zhai Xing and Prince Bo spend time together as a couple are incredibly sweet. But then that also means when truths are revealed, it can be devastating. There’s lots of tears shed by Ma Zhai Xing.
  • Prince Bo, the Wolf Prince, is powerful in every sense of the word and leads a  loyal team. It’s a pleasure watching him go to battle for his team and adopted siblings.
  • Great secondary character in Xiao Zhan’s Ji Chong
    • First introduced in ep 11, Ji Chong soon becomes fast friends with Ma Zhai Xing and is attracted to her resolute nature. He does his best to protect Ma Zhai Xing and truly respects her.
  • The Soundtrack is a banger. THE Jolin Tsai offers her voice for the drama’s opening theme, This is quite rare but the moment I heard this song, I knew it was Jolin. It adds a rather wild flair to the atmosphere which pairs well with the wolf prince. 
  • High production value

Why You May Want to Pass

  • I’ll be the first to admit, there are many idol drama tropes in this drama. Of course, you have a powerful Prince in Prince Bo in love with the female lead, and they just so happen to meet another capable young man, Ji Chong, who then falls in love with the female lead as well. 
    • But, I’m a sucker for this type of drama especially with this intriguing lead.
  • The drama tries to portray the female lead as strong and independent, but she ultimately still has to rely on her male love interests.
  • You also can’t think too hard about some of the conflicts that happen. As with many dramas of this nature, I feel like many conflicts could have resolved themselves if people just talked to each other.
  • Lots of tears are shed after the brief moments of sweetness. 

Overall, I personally adored this drama and was really glad I decided to take a shot. It was my drama obsession at the end of 2020. If you can get past some of the basic tropes and not think too hard about the history of the show, it’s a fun and emotional ride. It tugs at your heartstrings in all the right places but perhaps be ready with a box of tissues. 

Li Qin and Wang Da Lu were on Happy Camp and Day Day Up at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 and you can tell they’ve become good friends. Their weibo interactions were also super cute while promoting the drama.  Li Qin and Xiao Zhan have worked together on many projects and it shows as they’re very comfortable together in the drama as well. I’d say, give it a shot.

-Karen

Song Of Glory (2020) 锦绣南歌 Review 

Republishing my review of The Song of Glory or 锦绣南歌. I was excited to see this drama as I am quite fond of 李沁 Li Qin. She is one of the younger actresses that I follow and enjoy seeing on screen. She was gorgeous in both 楚乔传 Princess Agents and 如懿传 RuYi’s Royal Love in the Palace. Her performances on reality tv shows such as Running Man reflect that she is a thoughtful and funny person.  Here are my main thoughts on the drama.

 

 

Pros for this drama:

1. Main leads – The story revolves around Li Qin’s character, Shen3 Li2 Ge1 沈骊歌 and Liu2 Yi4 Kang1 刘义康. She is an orphan, raised as an assassin to kill Liu Yi Kang, who is the 4th prince during the Liu Song Dynasty. While many viewers say they don’t particularly like the male lead, Qin Hao, I thought he was more than adequate. He has more maturity that fits his role well. He is a bit on the older side so perhaps people think he and Li Qin don’t pair as well but I thought it was fine. These two had passable chemistry and were the highlights of each episode.

2. Historical setting – The setting doesn’t matter a WHOLE lot here other than the fact that it made me do research on what this dynasty is. This is not the well known Song dynasty that reigned from 960-1279AD ruled by the Zhao 赵 family. Instead, this Song dynasty reigned for a rather short period from 420-479AD ruled by the Liu 刘 family.  This dynasty is part of the Northern and Southern Dynasties era of Chinese history. Not many dramas are set in this period because it’s messy and short. The various dynasties didn’t last very long and their stories not as notable as some of the other dynasties. Though, it seems, that after researching Liu Yi Kang’s life, he was not as benevolent as this drama portrays him to be.

3. Setting and Costumes – The sets and costumes for this drama were high quality.  Li Qin’s assassin and dance outfits in particular are form fitting and well made.

(Some additional Pros in the Spoiler section below)

Cons:

1. Story/Plot can drag  – the first couple of episodes start off well enough. There’s suspense and intrigue into why or how this one official is enacting corrupt activities. The 2 main characters Shen Li Ge and Liu Yi Kang work together to solve mysteries albeit never knowing each other’s true identities. But after around episode 25, the story becomes convoluted and drags to watch. 

2. Female hairstyles – when women are married in this drama, their hairstyles are…not as ideal. I’m watching them and thinking “was this historically accurate? If not, why make these styles? They are not attractive!”. 

3. Plot holes and miracles that unfairly benefit the antagonist – essentially there were many scenes that I wanted to say “how is that possible!?”. How can a bad guy show up where she does without anyone noticing? She’s the daughter of a general. Shouldn’t she have restrictions? 

4. Plot holes and miracles that allow the main characters to survive life threatening wounds – the main female lead gets injured numerous times throughout the drama. Unless it is to drive a sad farewell between her love, she generally gets saved by her friends and is bouncing around killing people or doing reconnaissance like her life threatening wounds never happened. Injuries that should have killed her or at least put her out of action for months are healed in, what seems to be, 24 hours.

 

Final thoughts: I thought this drama was…fine. It started off strong and ended on a weak note. The main leads were cute and there was never an issue with their faithfulness in the relationship which was refreshing but there were plentiful plot holes and inconsistencies that just make you want to bang your head against the wall. Some story lines dragged on or else didn’t make sense. Bad guys kept on coming back or stayed alive to add difficulty to the story. However, the high production value and quality acting from the acting team make this a passable drama to watch in the background. 

PSA – DO NOT WATCH THE LAST EPISODE. Pretend the drama ends at episode 52 and that episode 53 doesn’t exist. You’ll thank me. 

 

Overall Rating; 6/10 

 

 

 

 [Spoiler discussion! – Don’t read if you don’t want parts of the drama spoiled!]

 

Pros – Sibling Relationships – With most dramas where there is a throne at stake, brothers tend to turn against each other. This drama stayed away from that cliche and allowed the 2 main brothers, the 4th prince and the 6th prince, to trust each other. They worked together to bring about a change in government policies throughout the empire. It was heartwarming to see these two succeed.

Pro – the main wife of the 4th prince – She actually stays pretty pure throughout the drama. She cares for her husband and genuinely enjoys spending time with the main female lead, even though both of the share the same man and it’s clear he loves the main female lead, not her. She doesn’t display too much jealousy. She’s a saint for that. 

Cons – Constant miscommunication – This drama is filled with instances where so many heartaches or issues could have been resolved if the people just talked to each other. In the beginning where the main female lead didn’t know the identity of the male lead, the male lead tried multiple times to tell her. Each time, she stopped him. The result? She stabs him not knowing his true identity… And that ending. Oh my gosh. This ending made my blood boil. The drama added unnecessary “drama” at the end of this show where the main couple could have just lived happily ever after. But no. The show writers just had to add a ridiculous star crossed lovers plot point. The main couple didn’t talk to each other whatsoever about what’s really happening in an effort to keep the other person happy and paid the price. 

Cons – Unfair expectations of women’s roles – The main couple get together. She is a female assassin with limited decorum or training on how to behave at court. He is a prince. She marries him as a concubine and they are in love. That’s all well and good. But after they get married, he tells her she needs to stop being the woman who goes out fighting. She needs to stop being so course. She instead needs to stay at home, become a refined woman at court and be a good wife. While overall, he let’s her be, accepting that she isn’t a great cook and sees the immense value she add to his life by being a smart woman with insane martial arts skills, he was initially insistent. I know this is just a drama set in a historical time period, but it irks me nonetheless. He tried to change everything about her. Other dramas such as Nirvana in Fire or The Story of MingLan don’t portray relationships in this way. Perhaps just one of the reasons why those dramas are superior to this one. 

Rattan (2021) 司藤 Review 

It’s been a while but we’re back with reviews and recommendations of Chinese dramas we’ve recently binged and first up is the fantasy drama: Rattan!

Rattan, or Si Teng (司藤)stars Jing Tian 景甜 and Zhang Bin Bin/Vin Zhang 张彬彬. The story begins where Zhang Bin Bin’s Qin Fang visits a faraway place called Dhana with his girlfriend to find a family to express gratitude for helping his family many years ago. 

 

Once there though, an accident causes Qin Fang to crash into a forest. The crash kills him but as his blood drips onto the grass beneath him, an alien being Si Teng, of the Yi Tribe, is brought back to life and Qin Fang is revived along with her.  

The story revolves around uncovering the truth behind the mysterious and powerful Si Teng’s past as she wakes up from an 80+ year slumber. Si Teng is a member of the Yi Tribe (though technically, in the book, she’s a part demon but the Chinese government banned mention of demons so she’s an alien). Many mysteries are uncovered as Si Teng and Qin Fang trace clues back to why Si Teng was “killed” in the first place and how she was able to wake up after almost a century.

 

 

 

Rating: 8.5/10

I personally HIGHLY recommend watching this drama. It was one of the first dramas I’ve chased in 2021 and it did not disappoint. Jing Tian has not had a great track record of strong performances but she knocked it out of the park in her role as Si Teng.  Si Teng is a powerful alien with magical powers and brains to boot. Her reputation precedes her as a bloodthirsty alien and she plays the part very well but in reality, she has a cute and dopey side. It’s fantastic seeing her be an absolute QUEEN since she is THE most powerful person in the drama while also having a softer side.

Not only does Jing Tian’s acting surprise viewers, the costume design and makeup is a breath of fresh air. Si Teng went to sleep in 1930s China and therefore is used to wearing Qi Pao, the traditional dress for women during that time. In modern day, her wardrobe retains many of those elements which translates into many iconic looks. The drama is a feast for the eyes due to her many costume changes. Since the drama’s airing, many women are now following Si Teng’s make up style, particularly how she shapes her eyebrows.

The other main viewing point for this drama is the chemistry between Si Teng/Jing Tian and Qin Fang/Zhang Bin Bin. Zhang Bin Bin has been in several dramas with Yang Mi and Dilireba but has failed to reach the A-list. This drama has propelled both him and Jing Tian to the forefront of popularity with lots more resources coming their way. The main driving factor is their chemistry which is off the charts for this drama. You can’t help but feel at ease watching these two act off each other but it’s even funnier when tall, handsome Zhang Bin Bin is relegated to the damsel-in-distress mode for most of the drama and Jing Tian has to go save him. Certainly a reversal of common cliches and its done surprisingly well.  Many interviews between these two leads have left fans clamoring for their relationship to translate off-screen and it’s easy to see why. 

Rattan is a quick and breezy 30 ep and is available on Youtube in the US with English subtitles.  Like I said, I highly recommend the show.  I thought the topic was so interesting that at 15 ep in while I was waiting for updates, I went and binged read the book the drama was based on. The drama does a relatively good job reviving most parts of the drama and removes quite a bit of the gory/bloody portions of the book.  Let’s just say I couldn’t sleep after binge reading the book because I was scared and thankfully the drama is much more palatable. 

 

Let us know  your thoughts on this drama if you’ve watched it already!

-Karen