The Legend of An Le (2023) 安乐传

Summary: The Han and Di families found a new dynasty with the Han family ruling the empire. The Di family were found guilty of treason and all sentenced to death. The lone survivor, Di Zi Yuan was sent to exile on Dai Mountain. Ten years later, the Crown Prince Han Ye ft Gong Jun travels south to destroy a pirate group in hopes of saving the imprisoned Di Zi Yuan. He meets the spunky girl Ren An Le ft Dilraba Dilmurat who insists on becoming his bride. After saving the Crown Prince, Ren An Le travels to the capital to offer her hand in marriage to the Crown Prince with her motley crew of 30,000 sailors as a wedding present. However, little does Han Ye know that Ren An Le is actually Di Zi Yuan. Her aim in going back to the capital is to seek her revenge for the wrongful conviction and death of her family. She has laid the board with her chess pieces and will now play to win everything, including the Empire.

 

Total Episode Count: 39

Initial Airing Date: July 12, 2023

Platform: Youku

 

*Note – English translations may not match official translations

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Rating [after 6 episodes] 7.5/10: Finally! A female lead who is mysterious and intelligent from the start! This is a refreshing take on a period romance drama in which the Dilraba’s Ren An Le throws all convention out the window as she tries to win the Crown Prince’s hand. I kept on smiling as we see Ren An Le antics wreak havoc in Han Ye’s life and the capital. The plot moves quickly, all the characters have hidden agendas, and it’s just a very pleasant watch! The main issue right now is the poor CGI in the first episode where I was like…this is such a terrible version of Pirates of the Caribbean. However, definitely watch for a fun and relaxing time!

 

Final Rating 6.5/10: After a strong start, the drama really started dragging with the introduction and focus on questionable side characters. The script really wasn’t able to capture the spark of the novel and left me wanting for more. This is a shame as the 3 leads tried their best but even they couldn’t save the poor writing in the latter half of the drama.

 ren an le / di zi yuan 任安乐 / 帝梓元

Dilraba Dilmurat

迪丽热巴

The spunky and playful leader of a band of sailors, she insists on becoming the Crown Prince’s wife. Her outward appearance hides her true identity and agenda against the Emperor

Han Ye 韩烨

gong jun 龚俊

The Crown Prince to the Empire. He saved Di Zi Yuan as a child and has since felt guilty towards her fate. His life is upended by the appearance of Ren An Le and he must choose if he will remain faithful to Di Zi Yuan

Luo Ming Xi 洛铭西

Liu Yu Ning 刘宇宁

Current Minister of Justice. He has been the secret pawn for Ren An Le in the Capital. He was the one who rescued her when her family was decimated and has since been her strongest ally and perhaps harbors more intense feelings

an ning 安宁

Xia Nan 夏楠

Princess to the Empire and one of Di Zi Yuan’s closest childhood friends. She fled to the battlefield in her youth to become a general after finding out the secret of the Di Family’s fate

Initial Thoughts

A-lister Dilireba enters the fray with her project, The Legend of An Le, competing with Yang Yang and Xiao Zhan for that summer hit. This drama dropped randomly at 8:40 on July 12th with literally no warning, despite rumors that this drama was coming. It’s been a rather odd release since the first day Youku released only 1 episode, the second day 3 episodes and the 3rd day 2 episodes. There’s no official drama chasing calendar published either, making fans rather irate of how half-hearted this all seems.

Despite this, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first 6 episodes. In our opinion, of the dramas out in July we’ve seen, The Legend of An Le is the most chase worthy. Only 6 episodes in, the story moves at a brisk pace and each character’s personalities have been clearly defined. Dilireba excels in splitting her personalities between the affable and adorable female pirate Ren An Le with the cold and calculating Di Zi Yuan. She is a joy to see on screen as she teases the Crown Prince Han Ye in one scene then pensively contemplating her next move in the next. Gong Jun’s Han Ye is passable. His portrayal is more wooden, even in scenes where he should have more emotion, and is elevated by his voice dub. Fortunately, he has strong chemistry in Re Ba in this drama. 

 

Satisfying Intelligence 全员智商在线的爽剧

In the first 6 episodes, the cast of characters all know the rules of the game at court. Each has their own agendas and are reasonably intelligent. Ren An Le has one goal in mind and she deftly navigates court to get what she wants. She uses her facade of an illiterate pirate seamlessly. Many people underestimated her abilities, thinking she was just a farce, which allowed her to trick her opponents and win the first case with ease.  But it’s not like the Emperor or Han Ye are dumb either.  The Crown Prince Han Ye could see rather quickly that she is not actually here to marry him because she is far too intelligent and capable for that to be her only goal. As for the Emperor, he is pleased to see this woman make controlled changes in his court against people he could not touch. I’m reminded of The Story of Yanxi Palace where Ying Luo had many satisfying take downs. We’re not waiting for Ren An Le’s growth story. She’s already at that level she can come out and make changes making this a satisfying and easy watch (so far). 

 

Binge-worthy romance 又土又上头

What’s not to love about a Crown Prince sworn to marry a woman but then starts having feelings for another woman that bulldozes into his life who is, in reality, the woman he was sworn to marry to begin with? I squeal at Ren An Le’s playful teasing and adorable indignance on being Han Ye’s wife who, in turn, is just a blushing mess in response. So many cute scenes together.  Han Ye is adamant in marrying Di Zi Yuan to honor his promise and protect her life but by episode 6, we already see his inner turmoil even if he doesn’t know it yet. This inner conflict and finding out when Ren An Le will also fall in love with Han Ye is the primary chase worthy component for this relationship and it is keeping us hooked!

While Luo Ming Xi’s hidden love towards Ren An Li and his “betrayal” of Han Ye’s trust isn’t my favorite, plenty of people are swooning over that CP (ship) as well. 

 

But…there are plenty of issues

That is not to say this drama doesn’t have its problems. Despite having Reba as the star, the production looks cheap. The lighting and CGI have been largely panned as low budget while some close ups of the actors faces leave me scratching my head at the director’s choices. The martial arts scenes are only ok. The fight scenes on boats in episode 1 were laughably bad. Though the dance scenes are rather commendable. 

Additionally, this is not a drama to think too closely about. Ren An Le/Di Zi Yuan is once again another character who can do it all. She’s insanely smart but also a capable fighter. We have to just go with the flow and believe she’s able to just suddenly become a member of court of the 4th rank. 

 

The general consensus is that this drama looks cheap but I’m still going to chase it and we fully agree. Let’s hope we aren’t disappointed for the remainder of the drama!

 

Final Thoughts

Despite breaking 10,000 on Youku’s heat index and staying there for over 20 days, An Le Zhuan performed rather poorly this summer. I would place much of the blame on the producing company Shanghai Films Media Corporation and the poor script. Everything about the airing of this drama was hectic. From the onset, promotional material for the drama didn’t match the airing of the show, as was evident by the sudden mid-month airing with no broadcast calendar. During the airing of the drama, there must have been some behind the scenes machinations between Youku and the Shanghai Films Media Corporation because rumors were swirling everywhere that Youku was unhappy with the final cut of the drama, which was owned by Shanghai Films Media Corporation. Fans were also unhappy with the final cut which brings me to why this drama fizzled in the end.

 

Focus on random side characters with new actors and actresses

The Shanghai Films Media Corporation has close ties with the Shanghai Theatre Academy and many of the company’s currently signed actors and actress graduated from this rather prestigious academy. Dilraba herself is an alumna of the institution. She agreed to act in this drama after much persuading from one of her old professors and did it as a favor to her alma mater. As a major stakeholder in this drama, the production company really pushed many of their new actors and actresses into key supporting roles in this drama. Of the cast, only Gong Jun and Liu Yu Ning, did not graduate from the Shanghai Theatre Academy.

The result is a drama that oddly focused on a bunch of side characters in which the performances from these actors and actresses were a noticeable drop in quality compared to Dilraba, Gong Jun, and Liu Yu Ning. For example, the character of Lin Lang, played by newcomer Wang Yi Ting, is a dancer, assassin, doctor, and has a tragic backstory. What can’t she do? The problem is, her original character in the book was simply a dancer and had a few interactions with the main characters. By forcing this character to an elevated role, the actress wasn’t able to capture WHY she was needed. This goes for several other characters, so much so that audiences essentially gave these side characters nicknames of whenever they were on screen, the would just be saying or doing the same things. For the princess, it was guilt and regret. For Di Cheng En, it was, let me take a bath to present myself appropriately. They were just taking up valuable screentime.

When the script allowed these characters to follow the book and really push the plot along, things clicked. Unfortunately, much of the screentime for these characters was just that, screentime for those characters that didn’t contribute to the larger story.

 

Obvious cuts from the original script

When watching the drama, it was very evident that edits were made post production to the final cut of the drama. As an aside, I think the 40 episode limit really hurt this drama because there were so many side characters who could have been introduced and plot lines that would have fleshed out the last half of this drama. With the final cut, there were so many scenes where the voice dubbing was completely different from what the actors / actresses were saying that I just wanted the original cut of this drama. It also seemed obvious that the production company chose to focus on the side characters rather than Ren An Le in several episodes because she’d disappear for like the entire episode.  

I was also disappointed that many scenes that were supposed to pack a heavy punch just didn’t land. The CGI was laughably bad so that contributed to several of these instances, but the final script / cut also just meant we didn’t have much build up to the climax and when we got there, the emotions didn’t really pack as much of a punch.

Ren An Le / Di Zi Yuan’s Strong Stance

Despite the drop in quality in the latter half of the drama, I personally continued to enjoy Dilraba’s portrayal of Ren An Le and Di Zi Yuan throughout the drama. It was very refreshing to have a female character with such strong resolve, refused to be a 恋爱脑 or romantically focused, still held firm on her morals, and strove to control her own destiny. Throughout the drama, Di Zi Yuan’s main motive was to seek revenge for her family and the 80,000 troops that died. She focused her wrath on those directly involved in the scheme and never wanted to spill unnecessary blood. When faced with the option to sacrifice thousands in the empire to benefit herself, Di Zi Yuan always chose the good of the people over personal gain.

In this drama, Dilraba’s acting is very subtle. There are many times when, as Ren An Le, she’d have a smiling face to a corrupt official but immediately turn around to show her disdain towards the whole situation. It’s through those instances where I got to see that Di Zi Yuan was always there and Ren An Le was only a façade.

 

Final comments

I thought the main leads, Dilraba, Gong Jun, and Liu Yu Ning, did the best they could with the script that was given to them. They really brought to life the characters from the original page. Unfortunately, the script and unnecessary additions to the side characters hampered the final product. I personally wish they split this drama into 2 parts so that we could get the more fleshed out drama.

 

Oh the small side episodes are SO cute! It’s around 12 minutes total but are totally worth it to watch in the end!

 

Let me know your thoughts on this drama!

-Cathy Chen

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