The Blood of Youth (2022) 少年歌行
Summary: An aspiring young wanderer Lei Wu Jie 雷无桀 ft Ao Rui Peng 敖瑞鹏 from the House of Lei is traveling to the great Snow Moon City but finds himself accidentally at an the Falling Snow Inn instead. He accidentally destroys much of the inn after an encounter that turns rough and falls into debt with the mysterious owner of the Inn, Xiao Se 萧瑟 ft Li Hong Yi 李宏毅.
Lei Wu Jie reluctantly brings Xiao Se along on his journey to pay off his debts. They meet another young man Tang Lian 唐莲 ft Li Xin Ze 李欣泽 who is traveling with and protecting a golden coffin. They encounter many members of various martial arts houses, sects, and factions all fighting to obtain the contents of the coffin. This is a story of brotherhood, loyalty, and love as the young generation takes up the new Jiang Hu.
This is based off of the book 少年歌行 by 周木楠 and an animated series of the same name
Total Episode Count: 40
Initial Airing Date: Dec 26, 2022
Initial Score: 6.8/10 – An ambitious martial arts drama adaptation, the story moves at a brisk pace and weaves together multiple storylines of different martial arts factions, houses, and sects. The young leads are somewhat overshadowed by the star studded supporting cast but the solid story, impressive CGI, and intriguing mysteries make this an pleasant watch.
Final Score: 7.7/10 – An entertaining martial arts drama that largely succeeds on the strength of the source material and brisk storytelling. The intricate storylines, impressive CGI, and sprawling cast all coalesce to a satisfying and touching conclusion. If you want an engaging action / adventure series, this is one to watch
Initial Thoughts – through episode 12
The plot moves extremely fast, which is both a positive and negative. The positive is that we don’t waste time deliberating on pointless arguments or conflicts. The story moves quickly to the next location or the characters need to reach the next martial arts level. It’s kind of like a video game. You beat the quest, then move to the next quest, with some side quests thrown in the mix.
The negative is that the world building is also extremely fast in this drama and requires a lot of commonly known martial arts tropes that might make it difficult to follow for non-martial arts fans. For example, the House of Tang, which is where Tang Lian hails from, typically is proficient in poisons and hidden weapons (think hidden daggers or needles). This is known in Chinese culture and authors / dramas typically adopt this but we don’t get that explanation in the drama. This also means that a lot of it is done through talking, like “oh, this character just reached the next level” or “oh, here’s so and so, the best master of the spear”, which typically just means that someone shows up in a flashy manner.
This also isn’t the type of martial arts drama that I grew up with, with a lot of hand-to-hand combat. It’s very CGI heavy, which seems to be the trend these days. To me, it doesn’t really feel like a martial arts drama but a fantasy drama mixed with some martial arts in it. It just doesn’t seem like the characters are in danger at any given point. At first, I was critical of the CGI because in the beginning it didn’t seem very good but it definitely improves as the drama moves along. The acting from some of the younger leads leave much to be desired, but the presence of the older actors and the intriguing storyline allows me to ignore some of the acting misses. 21
Xiao Se 萧瑟 – Li Hong Yi 李宏毅
The stingy owner of the Falling Snow Inn with a mysterious past. He encounters the young and eager Lei Wu Jie who is on his way to Snow Moon City. After the Lei Wu Jie accidentally destroys his inn, Xiao Se decides to travel with Lei Wu Jie to ensure the latter pays for the damages. As the drama progresses, his past is slowly revealed and with it, another whirlwind in both Jiang Hu and the royal court
Wu Xin 无心 – Liu Xue Yi 刘学义
The son of the leader of the Demon Clan, Ye Ding Zhi, and the apprentice of Master Wang You, he grew up as a Buddhist monk and learned many martial arts skills. After the 12 years were up for him to stay in Bei Li as a hostage, he hid himself in a golden coffin to travel out west to become the next leader. Along the way, he met new travelers such as Xiao Se, Lei Wu Jie, and Tang Lian
Lei Wu Jie 雷无桀 – Ao Rui Peng 敖瑞鹏
A young traveler itching to become a new martial arts master. He encounters other travelers, each with hidden abilities. After entering Snow Moon City, he continues his studies in swordsmanship. With an earnest nature and innocent personality, he gains the trust of his friend and in turn, is loyal to them. He has a very cute crush on Ye Ruo Yi.
Si Kong Qian Luo 司空千落 – Lin Bo Yang 林博洋
Daughter of the Spear Saint Si Kong Chang Feng, she has a straightforward and optimistic disposition. She loves and hates easily and soon falls in love with the mysterious Xiao Se. She is willing to die for her friends and family and uses her Silver Moon Spear to do so.
Ye Ruo Yi 叶若依 – Dai Yan Ni 戴燕妮
Daughter of General Ye Xiao Ying, she suffers from congenital heart defects. She and Xiao Se grew up together and has lived in Snow Moon City for several years for medical treatment. She is intelligent, cunning, and wise. As the advisor of the group, she aids Xiao Se in his ambitions.
Tang Lian 唐莲 – Li Xin Ze 李欣泽
The most senior apprentice of the Tang sect, he also learned from Master Bai Li Dong Jun from Snow Moon City. He is calm, righteous, and powerful. When faced with choosing between competing loyalties, he will always choose what is right.
Lei Wu Jie is a young martial arts student who accidently finds himself at the Falling Snow Inn while on his way to Snow Moon City. The owner of the Inn, Xiao Se, begrudgingly agrees to travel with Lei Wu Jie to ensure the latter pays for his damages. Tang Lian, a pupil of Snow Moon City, has been tasked with delivering a golden coffin. However, along the way, he is being hunted by killers. Lei Wu Jie and Xiao Se stumble upon Tang Lian’s hiding place and have to face the killers together. Shortly after, another pupil from Snow Moon City, Si Kong Qian Luo, arrives and the four of them successfully escape from the attackers.
They become curious with the contents of the golden coffin, believing it to contain vast wealth or secrets to martial arts. They are surprised to find a young and beautiful monk, Wu Xin, emerge from the coffin. Wu Xin is a powerful monk with an even more intriguing history. He, along with Lei Wu Jie, and Xiao Se become fast friends as they come to an understanding that none of them want to harm the world despite its imperfections. Wu Xin comes to terms with his identity and gives parting gifts to his friends as he takes up the mantle of leader of Tian Way Tian.
Lei Wu Jie and Xiao Se continue on their journey to Snow Moon City. Lei Wu Jie has to defeat over 14 levels of the Sky Tower to be deemed worthy of admission as a pupil in Snow Moon City. There, he meets the 2nd Master of the City, Li Han Yi, who agrees to accept him as a pupil. Xiao Se catches the eye of the Spear Saint, Si Kong Chang Feng, who accepts him as his pupil. The two of them stay in Snow Moon City to learn the arts. However, Xiao Se’s past comes to haunt him as he must face his true identity and make decisions that will impact the kingdom.
This drama surprised me quite a lot as I was chasing the show in all the best ways possible. I came in with low expectations but am happy to report that this drama exceeded my expectations and is a very compelling and satisfying watch. The intricate storylines that were woven in the beginning were confusing at first, but as I became more and more invested in the characters, the pieces more or less fell into place.
This is a martial arts drama that focuses on 3 main characters, each with a unique background from different martial arts houses or sects (门派). They each have their mysteries, skills, and goals and it’s fun to follow on the journey as we begin to learn about their backgrounds and how they are connected to the larger Jiang Hu and even royal court. The characters travel to unique cities and locations that have different martial arts specialists and our heroes must defeat or grow with each encounter. It is a refreshing departure from the usual romantic dramas or fantasy dramas that are all the rage. Each of the main characters have their own colorful history, motivations, loyalties, concerns, and decisions. I could follow the reasoning for most of them and grew to care about each of them in their unique way.
In an age where dramas get immediately panned for their poor adaptations of the source material, this drama succeeded in staying faithful to both the original text AND the animated series. The only problem is that Youku as a platform just doesn’t have as much reach compared to iQiYi or Tencent and I wished that more people saw this drama.
My observations from the first 12 episodes largely hold, but as I became more comfortable with the cast and the stories, I became more invested in the storylines and was ok in letting some of my reservations go. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible because I want you to watch it!
What I liked about the drama
Strong Fast paced Storyline: The storyline moves quickly and doesn’t dawdle on superfluous scenes. Each character serves a purpose and helps move the plot forward. It starts of quite small with a simple journey between 2 characters, but then it quickly opens up to a wide world. We learn that everything is intertwined, and I was thoroughly engaged because I didn’t want to miss learning about the motivations of different characters, different settings, and where the story would take us.
Focus on loyalty with romance sprinkled in: The show is very much about loyalty. Loyalty to your sect, house, family, country, lovers, and friends. It’s refreshing because it’s so rare for dramas these days for characters to pride themselves in helping their friends simply because it is the right thing to do. They believe in a cause, or a person, and they will protect that cause, even at the cost of his or her life. These are reciprocal relationships. It never felt that one person was always just receiving loyalty for no reason. Each person had his or her own charm or power that made the relationships understandable.
Politiking: Despite it being a martial arts drama, this is also very much a political drama. There’s battle at court in which the king must balance power amongst his sons. The sons, in turn, vie for the throne. The Martial Arts houses also battle for supremacy to rule Jiang Hu. There’s a lot to keep track and its thrilling to see where the allegiances lie.
Strong supporting cast: There’s a whole myriad of supporting characters in this drama. So much so that I am in awe of how they were able to cast this many people. For those of us who’ve watched years of Chinese dramas, I had a blast pointing out the actors and actresses when they showed up on screen. The surprises kept coming right up to the last couple of episodes. Each character though, also had an intricate role to play in the story and there was a reason why they were there. I particularly loved the romance between Zhao Yu Zhen and Li Han Yi. I personally think that the supporting cast outshone our main characters.
Great characters: There’s a lot of characters in this drama. However, each has his / her unique style which could be seen in their clothing and martial arts. Many are fully fleshed out even though they have limited screen time. Some of my favorites include Ye Ruo Yi, Wu Xin, the young doctor Hua Jin, Mu Chun Feng
Impressive CGI: I was pretty hesitant at first on the CGI but as I kept watching, I became more and more impressed. Apparently the post production team used many of the same scenes from the animated series, which might explain why they were very well thought out and beautiful. It’s a treat for the eyes.
Acting from the younger leads: Unfortunately, our leads for Xiao Se, Lei Wu Jie, and Si Kong Qian Luo leave a lot to be desired from an acting perspective. This is a pretty attractive cast, but these three really didn’t sell me on their roles. Li Hong Yi (Xiao Se’s actor) basically was just stoic the entire time, showing little to no emotion. Or else, I couldn’t tell when he was showing any emotion. Ao Rui Peng (Lei Wu Jie’s actor) was trying to portray an innocent young man but it often came off as bumbling. Lin Bo Yang (Si Kong Qian Luo’s actress) didn’t show much growth in her acting as she took on the mantle to protect those she loved. She was kind of annoying but at least she had limited screentime.
Vast universe that is hard to follow: The drama places you in this world and just hits the ground running. It might be a turn off at first if you can’t follow everything that’s being discussed. There’s also a lot of names, swords, places, and rules that might be tough to follow if you’re not well-versed on martial arts.
Martial Arts: Speaking of, I wished there was more hand to hand combat. Most of the martial arts was just here’s my fancy CGI sword, which does look impressive, but just doesn’t have that intensity factor. This is just a personal preference though.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the drama. It was a gripping story of loyalty, family, and love and I hope more people get to see this.